What to Know
- The D.C. Council has given final approval to a bill allowing sports betting online and in sports venues.
- The bill must be approved by Mayor Muriel Bowser's and then pass Congressional review before it can take effect.
- Estimates say sports betting could create $92 million in revenue for the District over four years.
The D.C. Council has given final approval to allow online sports betting in the District, positioning the city to become the first jurisdiction in the region to have betting at sports venues as well as through online apps.
The D.C. Council voted 11-2 on Tuesday to authorize betting on professional sports at the city's stadiums and arenas, private businesses like restaurants and liquor stores, and within the city limits on a mobile app.
Mayor Bowser is expected to sign the legislation that would then need to pass congressional review. Councilmember Jack Evans, who spearheaded the new law, hopes sports betting could begin in time for MLB’s opening day in April.
"The ultimate goal is to make some money," Evans told News4 after an initial vote. "And to allow our residents to participate."
According to D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt, sports betting could bring in as much as $92 million over the next four years to the D.C. government. That revenue would be split to pay for violence prevention programs under the NEAR Act, and the other half to cover the cost of a new bill to expand affordable child care options in the city. An additional $200,000 a year would go to fund gambling addiction treatment.
Operators would be taxed at 10 percent of revenue.
Because Washington lacks casinos, the D.C. Lottery would oversee sports betting, an arrangement that makes the nation's capital an outlier. Athens, Greece-based Intralot is the city's current lottery vendor. The lottery would sell licenses to sports books at arenas and stadiums for $250,000 over five years, and retailers would be able to purchase a two-year license for $5,000. There is no cap on the number of licenses.
Casino industry groups had a measured reaction to the bill's passage, saying that handing over control of sports gambling to the lottery could stifle competition.
"While the vote today is progress, we remain deeply concerned about giving the lottery a virtual monopoly in the mobile market," Sara Slane, a vice president at the American Gaming Association, said in a statement. "Predictably, this will result in less investment and innovation, to the detriment of consumers and the ability of a nascent legal marketplace to compete with the accessibility and convenience offered by many established illegal wagering operations."
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year opened the door for states to legalize sports betting in casinos and online, opening the door to sports betting from your phone and in venues like Capital One Arena.
Some Virginia lawmakers recently announced they're drafting legislation that would legalize sports betting. Maryland also considered a bill over the summer, but it didn't pass, NBC News reported.