Since the US Supreme Court‘s decision to end PASPA in May 2018, five states (including DC gambling neighbor West Virginia) have brought sports betting home to their inhabitants, joining the longtime legal gambling state of Nevada. In 2019, it is possible the justices themselves will be able to wager on sporting events.
The Washington DC city council is discussing the idea of legalizing sports betting within the city limits. On Oct. 17, the Committee of Finance and Revenue met to hear testimony regarding the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018.
Getting the ball rolling
The bill would permit sports wagering at licensed establishments throughout Washington DC. DC Councilmember Jack Evans wrote and submitted the bill in September.
He told Legal Sports Report that the goal would be to have the bill on the mayor’s desk for signature by Thanksgiving. The bill, like all DC bills, would then be subject to a 30-day review by the US Congress.
Congress retains the right to disapprove any submitted bill. However, Evans remains confident about the bill’s chances.
“If everything falls into place – sports betting will be live by (baseball’s) opening day next year.”
Witnesses to the hearing included representatives from FanDuel, DraftKings, MGM Resorts and the NBA. Many gambling-friendly organizations expressed optimism and support for sports wagers in our nation’s capital.
Interactive gaming advocate Jeff Ifrah went so far as to encourage the council to expand for online poker and casino gaming in the district. On the other hand, the NBA continued its quixotic argument in support of integrity fees.
Breaking down the bill
The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 resembles many of the new laws to legalize sports betting in other states. The law stipulates the regulatory scheme, licensing procedure and budget allocation for the new sportsbooks.
Oversight would fall to the Office of Lottery and Gaming. The department’s overseer would be a chief financial officer.
Each licensee would have to pay $50,000 for their license. Licenses would remain valid for five years.
Licensees would also be subject to a 10 percent tax on their gross revenue from sports betting. The tax revenue will go to support early childhood development and arts/humanities programs in the district.
At this point, the bill does not include plans for an integrity fee. However, Evans cautioned that the lack of such fees is due to the resistance to them in other localities. In other words, there aren’t integrity fees because no one else is doing them.
A great opportunity for DC
One unique aspect of legalizing sports betting in DC is the fact that DC is not home to any casinos or other gaming operations. So, instead of restricting sportsbooks to existing gambling operations, it is possible that people within the city limits could find places to wager in bars, sports arenas and even hotels.
Evans sees an opportunity at hotels in particular. Washington DC hotels welcome 20 million guests each year, so there is a tremendous revenue potential for in-house sportsbooks.
“Hotels are a market that we want to tap into,” Evans said. “The goal is to establish a model bill for the rest of the country to use.”