The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 has been approved by the Washington D.C. City Council, after a vote of 11-2. The bill will legalize sports betting in the region and is expected to be signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser in the near future.
D.C. sports betting
The bill was introduced by Councilman Jack Evans on 4 December, with city council members working quickly to approve the measure. The District will be joining other areas in the US to offer sports betting, including New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi, Rhode Island, New Mexico and West Virginia.
Sports betting became an option outside of Nevada after the US Supreme Court ruled in May that the federal law, the Professional & Amateur Sports Protection, was unconstitutional.
Since the SCOTUS decision, lawmakers across the United States have moved to legalize sports betting to create a new source of revenue. Over the past few months, the industry has rapidly expanded as new states pass legislation.
In D.C., the city will earn 20% in taxes paid from gross sports betting revenues from online operations and 10% from land-based facilities. Revenue will also be collected from fees paid for licensing.
Sports betting will be offered via the District’s sports arenas, including the Capital One Arena and the Nationals Park. The start date is estimated as 1 July 2019 and it is believed that the industry will bring in $6.5m (€5.6m) next year, as much as $8.5m (€7.4m) in 2020 and $9.7m (€8.4m) for 2021.
Revenues generated from the new industry will go towards programs in the city including gambling addiction, violence prevention, a Birth to 3 program and more. A certain percentage from the profits will go towards each program.
Washington D.C. has no casinos, but legislation will permit the city’s sports venues to offer wagering as well as private establishments, including liquor stores and restaurants. Mobile gaming will also be on offer, but the D.C. Lottery will be the exclusive operator for online gaming.
Because of the exclusivity, D.C. has closed off this sector of the market to private businesses. Arenas and businesses that have a sports betting license can have an app, but they will be restricted to operations only within their facility.
The lottery was insistent in its desire to be the only operator offering a mobile application to be able to maximize revenues for the city. Lawmakers are still open to allowing private businesses to operate via mobile in the future, with one council member trying to push for an amendment to allow competition.
Council member Robert C White Jr wanted to see more competition allowed via the bill, giving a preference to companies operated by locals as well as minorities.
White Jr said: “Sports betting is going to be a huge opportunity for the city in terms of revenue, but it’s an equally big opportunity for residents to get jobs and create and expand businesses. I don’t think we should be opening up new opportunities and setting aside District funding without including as much minority and women participation as possible.”
Instead of opting for White’s amendment, council members chose to approve language submitted by Kenyan R McDuffie, which will increase the participation of minorities in other areas of the industry. During the council meeting, emergency language was also added to allow sports betting to begin as soon as Mayor Bowser signs the bill.
The bill managed to pass just in time, before the District reached its end-of-year deadline.