We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
LL has a hard time reconciling how Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley thinks he has a chance of being president in 2016 when one of his biggest accomplishments as governor could be opening some sure-to-be gaudy Las Vegas-style casino in Prince George’s County. But hey, that’s not LL’s beat.
But the D.C. Lottery, which the feds are currently looking at as part of their widespread investigation into possible municipal corruption, is on LL’s turf. And if Maryland voters approve O’Malley’s plan to open a casino in P.G. County, it’ll likely mean that the D.C. Lottery takes a sizeable short-term hit, says an executive with the gaming company that operates the city’s lotto.
Byron Boothe, vice president of government relations for gaming giant Intralot, says that a new casino at National Harbor (that’s one of the proposed sites, the other is Rosecroft Raceway) could cause a dip in District lotto revenue of about 10 to 20 percent. That estimate is based on what’s happened in other states where a casino has opened, Booth says. But, he adds, that drop in numbers is likely to rebound to current levels two or three years after the casino opens and the glitz and glamor wear off.
So what does that mean for the District’s budget? Online yearly reports from the lotto show that it’s been kicking in between $65 million to $74 million to the District’s general fund from 2006 to 2010. (The contributions to the city have fluctuated between years, while the overall revenues dropped from $266 million in 2006 to $230 million in 2010.) A 20 percent hit could mean about a $14 million cut per year for the city’s general fund. Times three years and we’re talking a rough estimate of $40 million in total impact. A spokesman for the CFO’s office says they would expect a decrease but they don’t have an estimate.
LL knows what you’re thinking: what a great excuse to revive D.C.’s failed bid to be the first in the nation to legalize online gambling! The CFO’s fiscal impact statement had the lotto boosting its revenues by $12 million in 2014, with more than $5 million of that going into the general fund. Boothe says that if the city had stayed the course and instituted online gambling, it would have blunted any loss from a Prince George’s casino. But he also adds that it’s too late to put that particular cow back in the barn. Boothe says D.C.’s competitive advantage was the speed in which it was going to legalize online gambling. If the city tried to do it again, he predicts Maryland and/or Virginia would probably follow suit.
“Any advantage D.C. would have had with igaming has come and gone,” Boothe says.
But that’s just his opinion. For other proponents of online gambling, a huge drop in lotto revenues might be a golden second-chance ticket.