D.C. Council approves legalized sports gambling

Ben Krimmel
December 19, 2018 - 3:09 pm

In an 11-2 vote the D.C. Council approved legal sports betting Tuesday, paving the way for Washington residents to bet on professional sports.

The legislation will allow fans to use Washington sports venues, like Capital One Arena and Nationals Park, as sportsbooks, The Action Network's Darren Rovell told The Sports Junkies Wednesday. 

Under the bill written by Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2), the D.C. Lottery would oversee sports betting.

The legislation would allow for bets to be placed three ways: at a sports venue, at a private establishment such as restaurants and liquor stores, or anywhere within the District via a mobile application. The app would be run exclusively by the D.C. Lottery, which closes off the market to competition from private business 

Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis was pleased with the bills passage, but critical of parts of the bill. 

“We are pleased that the City Council is moving quickly to legalize sports gaming in D.C., but we are disappointed that this bill crates a monopoly run by the D.C. Lottery rather than a competitive marketplace for mobile betting,” Leonsis said in a statement to The Action Network. “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.”

Leonsis has been a consistent campaign contributor to Evans' various campaigns, per campaign finance records.

This lack of competition is being criticized by some in the industry.

“Especially from the consumer perspective, it’s better to have more competition and choice, so this is unusual,” Sara Slane of the American Gaming Association told The Washington Post. “But it’s obviously better than having the illegal market, so I’m glad they are taking a step in the right direction to provide a legal, regulated alternative.”

D.C. would join Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and West Virginia with legalized sports betting. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser has indicated her support for the bill, which needs Congressional approval.

The expectation is gambling will raise $92 million for the city over four years, according to Jeffrey DeWitt, the District's Chief Financial Officer, who also overseas the lottery.

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