Washington, DC Council Votes to Legalize Sports Betting in a First for D.C.

Photo: dccouncil.us

The District Of Columbia City Council has voted to legalize sports betting, becoming the first jurisdiction in the DMV to do so. The council voted favorably towards legalizing gaming with an 11-2 vote. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser is expected to sign the bill into law, although Congress will have a 30-day period to review the bill before it becomes law. 

If the Mayor signs the measure, betting will be allowed on-line and at sports books, including Nationals Park, home of the MLB’s Washington Nationals, and Capital One Arena, home of the NHL’s Washington Capitals and the NBA’s Washington Wizards.

DC Council Member Jack Evans, the sponsor of the legislation, has said it’s important for the District to act quickly, arguing “We can be first and get a lot of money or 51st and not get any.”

District and Virginia residents have taken advantage of the MGM National Harbor Casino in Prince George’s County, and Evans and other area officials have expressed regret that money from their jurisdictions is going to Maryland.

As previously reported, there have been some discussions about sports betting in Maryland and Virginia as well.

Maryland already allows gambling on slots and table games, and the state’s casinos have been a large source of jobs and revenues for the state, but efforts to move quickly to legalize sports betting have stalled. Legislation was introduced in the state earlier this year to establish a task force to study the issue but no action on the bill occurred this year. In March, the Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to put a referendum on the issue on the ballot, but the measure was not considered in the Senate. Shortly after the Supreme Court decision, leaders of the General Assembly expressed interest in a special session to consider the issue but Governor Larry Hogan declined to call them into session. Hogan has supported the ability of states to allow sports betting, but the issue has not been debated during this year’s race for governor. An analysis by General Assembly staff estimated that sports betting could raise between $14 million and $180 million for the state.

No legislation was introduced in Virginia this year, but Virginia Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne speculated that 2019 would see action on the issue, citing the potential revenue for the state. “You’re going to see a big push in the General Assembly session, probably the beginning of this year,” Layne said at a July 11 public lottery meeting. In fact, State Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) told Washington’s Fox 5 television station that he intends to introduce a bill in January to legalize sports gambling. Governor Ralph Northam has not weighed in on the issue.

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has been a long-time proponent of sports betting and has said “I think it will be a game of skill, just like you can be a day trader — you can be at Goldman Sachs, making billion-dollar bets on companies” and that gambling inside American venues “will not be an oddity; that will be standing operating procedure.”

“I try not to call it gambling. Gambling to me sounds like rolling the dice, not knowing what the outcome is,” Leonsis said. “And gamification, powered by big data, you have all of the information that you need to make a very, very reasoned decision.”

The NHL made an announcement about a month and a half ago that they entered the business of sports betting.

The league took their first step into the sports betting business in 2014, when it partnered with DraftKings to make it the official daily fantasy sports game of the NHL and allowed DraftKings the exclusive use of the NHL’s intellectual property.

Teams such as the Vegas Golden Knights and the New Jersey Devils made marketing deals with bookmarker, William Hill, as of late. The Golden Knights included in-game activations and advertisements in T-Mobile Arena. The Devils included a William Hill lounge with the company’s odds displayed around Prudential Center.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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2 Responses to Washington, DC Council Votes to Legalize Sports Betting in a First for D.C.

  1. Richard Bowman says:

    This is excellent! Much more informative, and earlier, than any other outlet in the area. Congratulations, sir!

  2. Pingback: Former Gaming Executive Sara Slane Hired By NHL | NoVa Caps

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