The Washington, D.C. Council voted 11-2 on Tuesday to bring legalized online and in-person sports betting to the district.
The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 must go to Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) for her signature and then on to Congress for its approval before betting can begin.
The nation’s capital joins other eight states that also have sports betting. Nevada has had gambling for decades, while Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have approved and implemented sportsbooks since May when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the longtime ban on sports betting.
Nearly 20 states are considering implementing sports betting in 2019 – including the district’s neighbors Virginia and Maryland.
Councilman Jack Evans (D) proposed the district bill, which puts the D.C. Lottery in charge of administering the sportsbook. The bill levies a 10 percent tax on the operators’ gross revenues each month.
Sports betting is expected to raise about $92 million for Washington, D.C. over the next four years, going into the “general” fund, though a portion of revenues has been allocated to early-childhood area, violence prevention and gambling addiction treatment.
Council member David Grosso, who cast one of two votes against the legislation, was critical that crucial district programs would be paid for from gambling revenues.
“The lure of easy, though incredibly improbable, financial advancement preys upon low-income individuals,” Grosso told fellow council members.
The council did unanimously approve an amendment suggested by council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) that seeks to increase minority participation in the sports betting industry, including a sports wagering development program that gives minority-owned businesses a fee discount.
Wagering can occur at sports venues, such as Nationals Park and Capital One Arena, at private businesses, or on a mobile app anywhere within city limits. The district has no casinos. Sports facilities will pay $250,000 for a five-year license. Retailers, such as restaurants and bars, will be charged $5,000 for a two-year license.
With so many people with their noses buried in their mobile phones, it is no surprise the betting app is expected to be the most popular among bettors. The D.C. Lottery insisted it be given the exclusive rights to operate an app, closing the door to a money-making opportunity with private businesses competing for the app contract.
Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, and a big supporter of sports gambling both lauded and criticized the city council after the vote in a statement issued to The Action Network which reports on sports betting.
“We are pleased that the City Council is moving quickly to legalize sports gaming in D.C., but we are disappointed that this bill creates a monopoly run by the D.C. Lottery rather than a competitive marketplace for mobile betting,” Leonsis wrote. “This is a disservice to fans, who don’t get the benefit of competition in the marketplace, and a disservice to the city, which will lose out on potential investment and job growth. We strongly encourage the council to reconsider creating a robust, competitive marketplace for mobile betting in D.C.”
Revolution Growth, owned by Leonis, is an investor in gaming giant DraftKings and sports data company Sportradar.