In February, when the Washington, D.C. Council approved legal sports betting in the district, most of the tax revenues collected were earmarked for violence prevention programs, early childhood development and programs to help those addicted to gambling.
Now mere weeks later, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed budget has moved the sports betting revenues into the city’s general fund, according to reporting by WAMU, 88.5, the district’s public radio. Sports betting is expected to raise about $92 million for the nation’s capital over the next four years. I could be implemented in time for the NFL season in late summer.
Instead of the two programs, according to the budget the money would head to the to the city’s general coffer and be used to pay government’s bills.
The gambling addiction program, however, is still funded by $200,000.
According to the D.C Chief Financial Officer, the move of funds means cuts of about $7 million over four years to early childhood and violence protection programs, according to WAMU.
“We have looked at the dedication of resources for specific purposes and we think the better way to approach this from a policy perspective is to allow those resources to flow to the general fund, determine what our policy priorities are, and make those funding decisions accordingly,” said City Administrator Rashad Young during a Council hearing on Friday.
But some council members are calling foul.
“My mindset was we wanted to see that additional funding [for the two programs],” said Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6).
Money for the two programs was suggested as an incentive for lawmakers to vote for the mobile sports betting proposal.
In late December, the board voted to bring legalized online and in-person sports betting to Washington, D.C. The legislation allows for betting to occur in specific area sports arenas, at licensed retail businesses, such as restaurants and convenience stores and on a D.C.-run mobile app.
As proven in other states with legal mobile sports gambling, the app is likely to be popular and the main source of betting revenue.
The vote on the mobile component was fast-tracked and competitive bidding set aside with Intralot, the same company that operates the city lottery winning the contract. Two of Intralot’s primary competitors – IGT and Scientific Games – we shut out of the process.
“I am absolutely committed to restoring this dedication of funds to Birth-to-Three and prevention of youth violence,” said Councilmember Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7).