Washington, DC Moves to Legalize Sports Betting, Despite No Casinos

Posted on: September 19, 2018, 09:40h. 

Last updated on: September 19, 2018, 09:40h.

Washington, DC sports betting could soon be coming to the nation’s capital. While a handful of Congressmen are mulling federal regulation on Capitol Hill, District of Columbia Councilman Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) wants to regulate it on a local level so the district’s coffers can capitalize on this newly liberalized form of gambling.

D.C. sports betting
Washington, DC Councilman Jack Evans believes the city “can be the first,” even though casinos in nearby West Virginia are already offering sports betting and at least one is heavily targeting DC area residents. (Image: Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

So far, states that have legalized sports betting have done so to bolster their land-based casino business, but the capital city has none. Instead, Evans’ bill will authorize the DC Lottery to offer online and in-person wagering.

Evans introduced the Sports Wagering and Lottery Amendment Act to the DC council on Tuesday. Its text has not yet been published, so it’s unclear exactly what “in-person wagering” would look like, or whether betting kiosks will be set up in downtown Washington.

Backing the Bill

Nevertheless, the bill is being backed by some heavy hitters in DC local government. Evans himself is longest-serving council member and he has the support of the majority of his colleagues, including Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D).

“We can be first and get a lot of money or 51st and not get any,” said Evans at a council breakfast before presenting his legislation, according to The Washington Post.

With a dearth of opportunities in the capital, residents who like to gamble head to casinos in nearby states — to the Hollywood casino in Charles Town, West Virginia, or the MGM National Harbor, in Maryland, whose location was chosen by MGM Resorts largely because of its proximity to DC. But the National Harbor can’t yet offer sports betting, as it’s not been legalized in the Old Line state yet and is not expected to do so until at least 2020.

Since the Hollywood casino already offers sports betting — it became the first in West Virginia to do so last month — Evans’ claim that his city can “be the first” is not true, but it can at least beat Maryland and Virginia to the punch.

Not the Only Game in Town

Evans says he was inspired to act on sports betting after reading in the Washington Post in August that the general manager of the Hollywood casino was heavily targeting the capital because he had the advantage of being “the only game in town.”

Today, we take the first steps towards capturing this exciting new stream of revenue, instead of watching District resident dollars fill the coffers of other jurisdictions,” said Evans in an official statement.

“The District of Columbia will be the leader in a fast-growing industry,” he said. “The city should take advantage of our ability to act before the Maryland or Virginia legislatures to create a thriving sports betting market, which will attract consumers to the District and generate revenue for District residents.”

Evans’ bill would tax sports betting at 10 percent, with a portion of proceeds going to fund a recently established childhood-wellness program in the city.