Washington, D.C. joined a number of jurisdictions with a new sports betting law on the books in December 2018. The District of Columbia Council approved legislation allowing its lottery to administer legal sports betting within the boundaries of the federal jurisdiction.
DC sports betting still has not launched as of March 2020. The lottery planned to start by April 2020 but decided to delay after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered all US sports.
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Legal sports betting basics in Washington, D.C.
DC sports betting will look quite different than legal wagering in other jurisdictions. There are no casinos in the District, so all wagering will take place either via mobile/online, kiosks and at retail locations like local stadiums.
The DC Lottery operates an app that will roll in sports betting functionality, although the details are in flux. The bill passed by the Council gives the lottery exclusive control of online platforms in most of the District, but seems to allow other operations within retail locations.
Initial plans for launch focused on Opening Day of baseball season. Given the speed with which DC sports betting advanced to date, that could be moved up to March Madness or even sooner.
Washington, D.C. sports betting FAQ
Is sports betting legal in Washington, D.C.?
Not quite yet. The council passed a bill approving legal DC sports betting, but that bill is not yet law. Councilmembers expected legal sports betting to launch by spring 2019, but it still has not started as of spring 2020.
Who will oversee Washington, D.C. sports betting?
DC sports betting will fall under the purview of the DC Lottery. Greek-owned company Intralot serves as the provider for the lottery itself and will operate the District’s own sports betting platform.
Where can I bet on sports in Washington, D.C.?
Nowhere currently. It’s important to remember there are no casinos in Washington, D.C. This means mobile sports betting via the DC Lottery’s app, and eventually, kiosks within stadiums and other locations will become the primary methods of DC sports betting.
Who can apply for a Washington, D.C. sports betting license?
No one can apply for the main mobile license. That was given to Intralot in a no-bid contract.
Bars and restaurants in the District can apply to operate retail sports betting locations, opening the door. Some sports arenas will have betting as well. Online sports betting will be exclusive to the lottery outside of those locations.
Who will be able to bet on sports in Washington, D.C.?
The legal gambling age is 18 for the DC Lottery.
Will mobile sports betting be available in Washington, D.C.?
Yes. With no casinos in the District, mobile betting is a necessity.
Washington, D.C. sports betting timeline
2018: Council takes on DC sports betting
The possibility of legal DC sports betting first appeared in September 2018. That’s when DC Councilmember Jack Evans introduced the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018.
The bill received a hearing in October and then underwent a major change before coming before the council for approval in late November. Evans amended the bill to include an integrity fee of 0.25 percent of revenue.
The next battle came a week later. Evans pushed for a single-operator model run by the lottery, while DraftKings, FanDuel, and others pushed for at least five licenses to be available. An amendment proposed to include multiple operators failed and the lottery retained the primary rights to operate DC sports betting.
1989: Limited wagering dies quickly
This effort is not the first attempt at legalizing DC sports betting. DC tried to implement limited sports betting in 1989, according to The Washington Post:
While not going as far as the single-game wagering offered then and now in Las Vegas, the idea replicated the “Sports Action” lottery game that was unveiled that year by the state of Oregon. It was, in essence, an attempt to bring a limited form of sports gambling to the nation’s capital, where the practice had long been outlawed.
It never got off the ground. After months of condemnation from pro sports leagues and other observers — The Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon wrote that “it’s hard to imagine a more irresponsible idea” — the D.C. Council killed the proposal in May 1990, saying it hurt the city’s chances of acquiring a Major League Baseball franchise.