Three bars in D.C. have taken a necessary first step to allow sports betting.
The D.C. Lottery hasn’t said yet whether it will allow bars to band together to create a shared gaming platform, which observers believe is the only financially feasible option.
“The concept of having the network of bars together and the terms and the commercial agreements, those are very far along,” said Jeff Ifrah, a lawyer who specializes in betting and gaming law.
Ifrah heads Bet D.C., an emerging coalition of bars leading the effort to bring D.C. bars and restaurants into the fold of sports betting.
“The current problem is that there’s a lot of contingencies around what the regulations are going to look like, and there’s been no guidance on that from the lottery,” said Ifra, who thinks this is understandable.
“They’re obviously preoccupied with their own things right now, including standing up their own product.”
The D.C. sports gambling law allows gaming to happen three ways: through the D.C. Lottery, which is creating its own system; at large locations (class A license), such as Nationals Park, Capital One Arena and Audi field; and at smaller venues (class B license), such as bars and restaurants that would all need to create their own systems.
But D.C. Lottery hasn’t yet said how many class B gaming licenses will be issued.
The vision of Bet D.C. is to have an app that directs people to participating bars and restaurants that share expenses. Ifra said economists running the numbers believe 10 bars would need to participate for the Bet D.C. network to generate a profit.
“The sports betting license applications aren’t even out yet, so we have no idea what those even look like,” Ifra said.
As for that necessary first step — the new liquor license that needs to be approved by D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) — bar managers are finding the process a little tough to navigate.
“They have a very small FAQ on the website; it doesn’t really cover everything,” said Ryan Roller, general manager of The Brig.
“We just wish there was a set timeline in writing that we could adhere to. We’re not 100% sure of when stuff is going to go before the ANC (Advisory Neighborhood Commission) board to approve.”
Roller said the plan submitted to ABRA details specific locations inside The Brig for a manned teller, two self-service kiosks and a geo-fenced Application. Now, he is hoping for the best.
“We’ve installed the electrical and everything, we’re ready to go,” Roller said.