City lawmakers in Washington D.C. have voted to legalize sports betting. The nation’s capital is the first U.S. jurisdiction without casinos to authorize sportsbooks.
The D.C. Council voted 11-2 in December to authorize betting on professional sports at the city’s stadiums and arenas, private businesses (such as restaurants and liquor stores), and within the city limits on a mobile app.
In order for the bill to become a law, it will need the signature of Mayor Muriel Bowser, who supports the bill. It will also need to survive a 60-day review by Congress. The law is almost certainly safe, thanks to the Democrats taking over the House in January. Supporters of the bill hope that bets could be taken in the city within months.
Since Washington lacks casinos, the D.C. Lottery would oversee sports betting. Intralot, an Athens, Greece-based company is the city’s current lottery vendor. The lottery would sell licenses to sportsbooks at arenas and stadiums for $250,000 over five years. Retailers would be able to purchase a two-year license for $5,000. There is no maximum amount of licenses allowed in the city.
“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.”
Sports betting operators would be taxed at 10 percent of revenue. City officials estimate that sports gambling will bring in $92 million over four years. Critics believe that number is overly optimistic, especially if neighboring Maryland, which has several casinos just over the city line, legalizes sports betting.
The D.C. Lottery operates an app that will allow sports betting functionality. The bill passed by the Council gives the lottery exclusive control of online platforms in the District. Which means apps like DraftKings and FanDuel will not be broadly available in the D.C. sports betting market.
Initial plans for launch were focused toward Opening Day of the baseball season. With the way that sports betting has advanced thus far in the District, that date could be moved up to March Madness, possibly even sooner.
The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 rewrites the DC books to permit both retail and online/mobile sports gambling. The bill does not exclude betting on any particular sport or league, so regulations will decide those specifics. Anyone directly involved in sports (coaches, players, etc.), however, are not permitted to wager on their own league.
Mobile betting will primarily be offered through the lottery’s platform, powered by Intralot. There are, however, some exceptions.
In addition to the District-wide mobile betting, Class A licenses are only allowed to be obtained by four “designated facilities”, Capital One Arena, Audi Field, Nationals Park, and St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Local NBA and NHL franchises play at Capital One Arena, while the hometown MLB team plays its games at National Park. Audi Field hosts the smaller MLS, while the WNBA plays at St. Elizabeths East. Language to include RFK Stadium in the Class A licenses list was stricken.
Each of the four listed will enjoy a two-block exclusivity zone, inside of which no competition is allowed. These licenses will cost $250,000 each and are valid for five years.
Class B licensees are offered to other establishments who wish to apply for sports wagering. They receive the same options as Class A facilities, minus the two-block exclusivity. Class B licenses are also valid for five years but come at a discount rate of $50,000. With even more limited two-year retail licenses being offered at $5,000 apiece.