The Washington, D.C. Council passed a bill to legalize sports betting on Tuesday which, if it becomes law, will make the District of Columbia the ninth U.S. jurisdiction to permit the pastime. Nevada, of course, has had sports betting for years, but it wasn’t until this May – when the Supreme Court overturned PASPA – that other states to could start opening sports books. Oregon, Delaware, and Montana were technically grandfathered in when PASPA passed in 1992, but they never had traditional, odds-based sports betting like Nevada. Since the overturn, Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia have all launched sports betting industries.
The Council vote was 11-to-2 in favor. Though Mayor Muriel Bowser supports sports betting and will certainly sign the bill, it still has to go through a Congressional review period after she does that. So that sports books can get up and running as soon as possible, the Council an “emergency bill” was passed which allow things to get started after Bowser signs off on the matter.
“We’re entering into new territory with sports gaming,” said Council Member Jack Evans, the one who wrote the bill. It was important for the Council to have D.C. get the jump on neighboring Virginia and Maryland. Even though those two states may legalize sports betting at some point, Washington, D.C. can reap the benefits of gamblers coming in from across District borders in the meantime.
Most states that have legalized sports betting authorize casinos to house sports books, but D.C. doesn’t have any casinos. As such, there will be three different types of venues that can offer sports betting. The first, the Class A licensees, are the professional sports venues in the District: Capital One Arena (Wizards, Capitals), Nationals Park (Nationals), Audi Field (United), and St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena (Mystics).
Class A licenses will cost $250,000 and are good for five years. Each licensee has an exclusivity buffer zone of two blocks and can offer mobile sports betting on-site.
Class B licenses are available to basically everyone else, though they don’t come with exclusivity. These cost $50,000. There are also two-year, $5,000 licenses available.
Though the Class A licenses can offer mobile betting at their venue, there will be mobile betting all over the District. Rather than opening this type of betting up to competition, the D.C. Lottery will be the exclusive operator.
“Especially from the consumer perspective, it’s better to have more competition and choice, so this is unusual,” said the American Gaming Association’s Sara Slane. “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.”
The District of Columbia Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board will oversee sports betting and will change its name to the Office of Lottery and Gaming. Regulations are not part of the bill; they will be added later.