Sports Betting Clears First Hurdle For Implementation In Washington D.C.

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The Washington, D.C. Council approved a bill that would allow sports betting in the district, the first of two votes necessary for implementation.

The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 cleared its first hurdle with a 10-2 vote.

Between now and the second vote there are still details to be worked out, such as whether the DC Lottery or outside vendors would serve as sportsbook operators. 

Also, how sportsbook revenues would be spent -- early childhood education and the arts have been suggested.

Washington, D.C. is part of the fast-paced trend of states moving forward with legal sports wagering that began in May when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 1992 law that limited betting outside Nevada.

Since the ruling, seven states – New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and New Mexico – that are operating legal sports books.

The nation’s capital is among nearly 20 states considering implementing sports betting by early next year – including the district’s neighbors Virginia and Maryland.

Because of the proximity, some council members would like to move forward on sports betting quickly so Virginia and Maryland can’t undermine the D.C. sports betting market.

Under the legislation, two categories of licenses would be created. Bars and restaurants are one license category for sportsbooks, with sports stadiums – Nationals Park, Capital One Arena, Audi Field and Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast Washington -- in another. RFK Stadium was on the list for a betting license but was eliminated because it is no longer home to a professional sports team, and with the facility on federal land gambling is prohibited.

In a prepared statement, the mayor’s office voiced its approval of sports betting implementation.

“The Mayor supports Council member (Jack) Evans’ efforts to make sports betting a viable revenue source for our growing needs. Sports betting can help us fund critical programs, create jobs for District residents, and allow visitors and commuters to further participate in our economy."

How much revenue the venture will create ranges widely from $20 million to $500 million, according to Councilman Evans.

Council member David Grasso, who cast one of the dissenting votes, disagrees with Evans’ estimates.

“People believe that we’re going to have millions and millions and millions of dollars in windfall,” Grasso said according to WTOP-FM. “And I just don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Grasso also has philosophical objections.

“Even though people say they’re going to be attracting the wealthy bettors and the wealthy gamblers … the fact of the matter is that we know time and time again that this has a severe impact on the people that most are unable to afford it.”

The second vote will occur sometime before the end of the year.

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