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Washington DC delays sports betting launch due to COVID-19 crisis

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Gambling regulators in the District of Columbia have delayed the rollout of sports betting operations as the United States and the rest of world continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Although Washington DC gave the green light for wagering on sports in March last year, a tedious legal battle over the awarding of an exclusive mobile betting contract to Intralot has pushed the scheduled launch well beyond the initial September 2019 projection.

The Office of Lottery Gaming said a few weeks ago that it was hoping to have its online sports betting platform up and running by the end of March, but the COVID-19 crisis has scuppered those plans.

“The Lottery’s sports wagering mobile and web platforms are tested and ready to go live,” said a DC Lottery spokesperson.

“These platforms would be launched tomorrow if there were live sports available for consumers to place wagers.”

The vast majority of the world’s sporting competitions, including all professional and collegiate leagues in the United States, have shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak.

That leaves online sportsbooks with precious little to run markets on besides esports and novelty bets.

“At this time, almost all professional leagues around the world have suspended play indefinitely due to growing concerns around the COVID-19 virus and, as a consequence, there are little-to-no games or bets to offer,” said the DC Lottery spokesperson.

“This goes for the Lottery’s offering, as well as any other sportsbooks operating in the US and globally.”

The spread of COVID-19 has brought the US sports betting industry to a grinding halt after nearly two years of rapid growth.

Some 22 separate jurisdictions have now legalised sports wagering, with the state of Washington joining the list after Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 2638 into law last week.

“We are revising our sports wagering launch strategy based on the current state of world events, but will be posting information about the platform in the coming days, including introducing the brand and its functionalities,” the DC Lottery spokesperson said.

“The Lottery and Intralot are prepared to launch the platform when it is safe for the sports world to return.”

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