Washington D.C. City Lawmakers Vote to Legalize Sports Gambling
On Tuesday, the Washington D.C. City Council voted to legalize sports betting in the district with its “Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018.” The bill passed 11-2 and the nation’s capital is now on its way to implementing sports betting in 2019.
Legal Sports Betting in the United States
Washington D.C. will join seven states that have legalized sports betting since the federal ban on sports gambling outside of Nevada was overturned in May. In addition to Nevada, bettors can now go to New Mexico, Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia to bet on sports.
More Details About Bill B22-0944
The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018, or B22-0944, was introduced on September 18 by Councilmembers Bonds, Chey, Evans, Gray, Todd, and R. White. According to the council’s web page:
“As introduced, this bill authorizes sports wagering in the District of Columbia. It authorizes the Chief Financial Officer to adopt rules and regulations governing the conduct of sports wagering.”
Before the vote, the council added an amendment that would allow D.C. to consider if licensees had to use official league data. So far, none of the states with legalized sports gambling have required that official data must be used by all operators.
The bill will now go to Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat who’s been in office since 2015. It is expected that she will sign since she has said she supports the bill, and then it will go on to obtain Congressional approval, but since the Democrats are taking over the House in the New Year, it’s not likely that Congress will hamper the progress.
According to the measure, D.C. Lottery will oversee sports gambling for the District of Columbia, and will control the mobile sports betting app. Since Washington D.C. has no casinos, the Lottery will control sports betting.
The Lottery will sell licenses to sports books at stadiums and arenas for $250,000 for a five year term, and retailers will be able to buy a two-year license for $5,000. The bill does not set a limit on the number of licenses that will be granted.
Betting will be permitted at city arenas, stadiums, private businesses like liquor stores and restaurants, and within the city limits using a mobile app.
Operators will be taxed at 10 percent of revenue that is left after operators pay out winnings. Tax revenue will go towards child care and crime prevention. The CFO for the district, Jeffrey De Witt, believes sports betting will bring in around $92 million in tax revenue over the next four years.
Ted Leonsis, owner of both Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, is a huge supporter of sports betting. In a statement to The Action Network, Leonsis expressed excitement for the legalization of sports betting, but has concerns over the D.C. Lottery running everything:
“We are pleased that the City Council is moving quickly to legalize sports gaming in D.C., but we are disappointed that this bill creates a monopoly run by the D.C. Lottery rather than a competitive marketplace for mobile betting. 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.”
It should be noted that Leonsis, through his firm Revolution Growth, has invested in both Sportradar and DraftKings. Recently, Sportradar has made news for forming partnerships with leagues like NASCAR and the NBA.
American Gaming Association
There has been a lot of conflict since May between lawmakers, casino owners, the leagues, and other stakeholders, with the leagues wanting a cut of revenue in the name of “integrity fees.”
Sara Slane, the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for the American Gaming Association, released a statement indicating they are happy that the current iteration of B22-0944 doesn’t require integrity fees or data fees.
The news release commends council members’ vote:
“We are encouraged by the D.C. City Council’s vote today to authorize sports wagering in the District. This decision represents a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting consumers and the integrity of sports.”
“We’re pleased the bill adheres to a number of AGA’s priorities for successful sports betting legislation, including promoting responsible gaming, instituting a reasonable tax rate and excluding any ‘integrity fees’ or ‘exclusive data fees’ which have been rightfully rejected in every other jurisdiction that has enacted sports betting legislation.”
There were, however, some concerns voiced. The release continued:
“While the vote today is progress, we remain deeply concerned about giving the lottery a virtual monopoly in the mobile market. Predictably, this will result in less investment and innovation, to the detriment of consumers and the ability of a nascent legal marketplace to compete with the accessibility and convenience offered by many established illegal wagering operations.”
“AGA urges District policymakers to reevaluate the merits of this key aspect of their framework and allow greater competition in the future.”
Timeline for Legal Sports Betting in Washington D.C.
Although there is no official timetable for the launch of legal sports betting in the District, residents and other stakeholders hope it’s soon. The closest legal sports betting is in Charles Town, West Virginia.
With legislative sessions starting up in early 2019, it would be a reasonable assumption that sports betting is legalized before the summer of 2019.
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