Washington DC Sports Betting Bill Receives Amendment Proposal

The Washington DC Council is proposing an amendment to the legislation that legalizes sports betting in the state. The amendment mostly concerns the licensing fee for operators in the space.

The DC Council has already given its seal of approval for the sports betting legislation, but still wants to make this minor tweak. The mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser, has still not put a veto on the bill or signed it into law. Therefore, the passing of this bill is currently at the discretion of the mayor.

Steps to legalization

The piece of legislation in question is known as the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018. The vote by the DC Council on this motion was in favour of the bill, with 11 people in favour and only two opposed to it. The bill legalizes sports betting in the region.

The bill first came to prominence on December 4 when it was introduced by Councilman Jack Evans. The process to have the bill gain approval was very swift. Usually, these matters take at least a few months and sometimes can drag on for a number of years.

Since the Supreme Court decision in May 2018 to end the federal sports betting ban, many states have opened their own sportsbooks. Many others are in the process of signing similar sports betting bills into law.

As per the Washington DC sports betting bill, there will be a gross sports betting revenue tax of 10% going to the tax authorities for online operations. This tax is for the physical facilities in the region. There will also be a license fee in place for operators to initially get up and running.

Sports betting operations

There was a lot of debate regarding how and where sports betting would be offered in the region. Ultimately, the decision was made to offer it through the sporting arenas in the district. This includes the likes of Nationals Park where the Washington Nationals MLB team play and at the Capital One Arena where the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals play.

Once the mayor gives the green light for this bill to become law, sports betting will start on July 1, 2019. The Council is hoping that by 2021 that the state will be garnering tax revenues from sports betting of around $10m.

For now, these revenues will be going towards key programs in the district for issues such as protection from violence, gambling addictions and so on.

Online gambling in Washington DC

The reason that sporting arenas in the district are going to host sportsbooks is because there are no casinos in the area. Sports betting products will also be available at certain private establishments, such as restaurants and liquor stores. The DC Lottery is going to be in charge of operating the online sports betting in the state.

Those physical locations that have a license can have their own mobile app; however, its use can only be in the facility. The lottery will be the sole operator that will be city-wide and therefore maximizing revenues for the region. This is likely to change in the future, but this monopoly will be in place for at least a few years.

Many are calling for more competition in the space. However, as the end of 2018’s legislative sessions was rapidly approaching, the bill was given passage.

Latest amendments

As the bill was rapidly passed, it was inevitable some amendments would be made once the dust had settled.

One of the main amendments is to double the license fee to $500,000 for the sports arenas that will be operating sportsbooks. The fee for other venues in the state that are not in the exclusivity zones will be $100,000. Discounts will be available to those applying for licenses that are going to be entering into partnership with local businesses.

There is no date on when Mayor Bowser will approve the bill and the subsequent amendments. Usually, there is a period of 30 days to review legislation. However, as the Council also passed an emergency measure when it approved the bill, this review period is not in operation. It is all down to the mayor’s discretion.

There is also a motion in place that will allow the DC Lottery to bypass the license application process. This will allow it to be ready to hit the ground running as soon as sports betting becomes legal. The next council meeting takes place on January 8, so there will certainly be more developments on the issue arising following that meeting.