D.C. Council introduces bill to legalize sports gambling

September 19, 2018 - 1:40 pm

By Ben Krimmel 

Legalized sports betting could soon arrive in Washington.

On Tuesday, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2) introduced legislation that would allow sports gambling in Washington following the Supreme Court's May decision that paved the way for local governments to legalize the practice.

"Today, we take the first steps towards capturing this exciting new stream of revenue, instead of watching District resident dollars fill the coffers of other jurisdictions," Evans said in a press release. "The District of Columbia will be the leader in a fast-growing industry. The city should take advantage of our ability to act before the Maryland or Virginia legislatures to create a thriving sports betting market, which will attract consumers to the District and generate revenue for District residents."  

If the legislation passes, D.C. would join Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi, and West Virginia with legalized sports betting. Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Ranson, West Virginia is the nearest place for legalized sports betting, about a 70-mile drive from Washington, which began taking bets on September 1. 

Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has long been a supporter of legalized sports betting and has stated that “real-time wagering” was part of “the future of football.”

“Legalized sports betting will only bring fans closer to the game, ramping up the action in each minute and creating more intensity," Leonsis wrote in a statement in May. "It will bring new revenue into the economy, creating jobs and growing our tax base. Today’s decision is a great one for sports fans and I am eager to embrace it."

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

Evans' legislation is being co-introduced by Councilmembers Mary Chey, Vincent Gray, Anita Bonds, Robert C. White Jr., and Brandon Todd, and is drafting the legislation with Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson​. The Washington Post reports that Mendelson​ "dislikes legalized gambling but that he would help Evans' bill pass."

“We are going to see — state after state will amend their laws to support sports gambling,” Mendelson​​ said. “It’s clear that residents have long accepted . . . gambling of the nature like the lottery and Internet sports gambling as acceptable, so it’s important to amend the law to reflect the Supreme Court’s actions.”

The bill could be presented in at a hearing in October, according to ABC7-WJLA, before possibly becoming law in February or March.