D.C. Sports Betting One Step Closer to Becoming Reality

D.C. could become the next US jurisdiction with legal sports betting, if a bill on the activity’s legalization completes successfully all legislative steps

Sports betting could soon arrive to the District of Columbia with overwhelming support from city councilors and a rather unique distribution system. Following a prolonged debate on Tuesday that resulted in no amendments, the D.C. Council voted 9-2 in favor of a proposed sports betting bill.

A second hearing on the piece of legislation will now take place on December 18. If it passes that final hearing, the bill will be referred to the D.C. Mayor. If the official signs the proposal, it will then be tabled for review by the Congress.

Following Tuesday’s vote, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office issued a statement saying that the official supports the effort for sports betting to be made “a viable revenue source for [the city’s] growing needs.” The statement further read that sports gambling could help D.C. “fund critical programs, create jobs for […] residents and allow visitors and commuters to further participate in [their] economy.”

As mentioned above, the Tuesday vote was preceded by ample discussions during which several amendments to the sports betting bill were proposed. However, these did not pass.

Two lawmakers expressed adamant opposition to the proposed sports betting legislation. Councilman David Grosso was particularly vocal, saying (as cited by Sports Handle) that he did not believe in the sports betting hype and that there was “a lot of self-interest” in the legislation. The official also pointed out that he did not believe “there will be millions and millions in revenue”, if sports betting was eventually legalized.

Unique System

If the proposed bill, sponsored by Councilman Jack Evans, gains the necessary support, it will make the D.C. Lottery the sole provider of Internet/mobile sports betting in the city’s confines. In-person sports betting will be allowed at five sports venues, with those being RFK Stadium, Nationals Park, Audi Field, and CapitalOne Arena (which hosts NBA and NHL games).

Councilman Evans has said that according to early projections, D.C.’s sports betting market could be worth anywhere between $20 million and $500 million. It is yet to be determined how the practice will be taxed and what tax contributions will be used for.

The D.C. Lottery holding the monopoly over digital sports betting would be a pretty unique system as commercial operators are running that service everywhere in the country where Internet/mobile sports gambling has become legal since the mid-May SCOTUS ruling that struck down a federal wagering ban.

An amendment to Councilman Evans’ bill called for the authorization of five Internet/mobile betting apps in the District. The amendment was proposed by Council member Robert White, who said Tuesday that competition in the field would generate more tax revenue and would make sure that D.C. pulls well ahead of its neighbors Virginia and Maryland, which have both said that they would move to legalize sports betting. Councilman White’s proposal did not gain enough traction on Tuesday, though.

The D.C. Council will next discuss sports betting during a December 18 hearing. If councilmen vote the bill through during that final hearing, it will be advanced to the Mayor’s desk.

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