Washington DC City Councilman Backs Legal Sports Betting

Washington DC Sports Betting

Some Washington D.C. residents say they’ve never gambled before, but they would like to make bets on the Capitals, Wizards, Redskins, and Nationals.

The District of Columbia City Council introduced a bill to legalize sports gambling in Washington D.C. on Tuesday morning. Councilmember Jack Evans introduced a bill he calls the “Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018“.

If the bill passed, the a variety of establishments inside Washington D.C. would be allowed to offer sports betting: hotels, bars, sports stadiums, and sporting arenas. Bookmaker bets would be handled with Vegas-style gaming machines and smartphone apps.

At the moment, five states have legal single-game sports betting: Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada, Mississippi, and West Virginia. The number of states which approves land-based sports gambling is expected to increase significantly in the next 5 to 7 years.

As they do, the visibility of sportsbooks and gaming companies will rise. In fact, the heightened visibility is one reason Jack Evans put forward his proposal. West Virginia gaming operators now have advertisements on the DC Metro. People living in the nation’s capital see the ads every day.

West Virginia Sportbook Ads

To gamble in West Virginia, those DC residents would have to travel out of state. That is why Jack Evans believes Washington D.C. should have legal sports betting: DC residents are going to gamble on sports, so the city should make it available locally.

Even residents who do not want to travel to West Virginia or Delaware to bet on sports do it anyway. The American Sports Betting Coalition estimates that as much as $150 billion is wagered by Americans each year through unlicensed offshore sportsbooks or through illegal local bookmakers (bookies).

No Longer Drive to Delaware

Carl Mobley, a D.C. resident, told WLJA News in Washington there’s a large underground sports betting underground in the city. Mobley said, “Let’s be frank, it’s definitely underground.”

Since Delaware legalized sports betting back in early June, Carl Mobley drives to the nearby state to place his sports bets. He prefers legal sports betting to underground bookmakers, but he also prefers convenience. Mobley approves of Jack Evans’ DC sports betting bill, saying, “It would keep me from having to make trips all the way to Delaware.”

Local Sports Fans Want to Bet

Nikki Smith Lee, a resident of nearby Prince George’s County in Northern Virginia, told the station she agrees with Jack Evans, too. Mrs. Smith Lee said, “I think it’s a great idea to bring sports betting here legally because it’s actually something that would generate more revenue, more jobs. And of course, more revenue and more jobs means happier people.”

Even residents who do not consider themselves gamblers are excited for the possibility. Antoinette Smith, a resident who supports the local sports teams but has never gambled on sports, said she would bet on the Washington Capitals and the Washington Senators if given the chance to do so legally.

Speaking of the possibility of legal sports betting, Antoinette Smith said, “I’m excited to do it.”

Opposition to D.C. Sports Betting

Not everyone is onboard with the plan. Matt Kaszejna, a District of Columbia resident, said he does not support legal sports betting in Washington. Kaszejna said he opposes the bill, stating, “Simply because I have three kids and should probably be spending the money on my daughters instead of gambling.”

Proponents of Jack Evans’ proposal would argue Matt Kaszejna is not obliged to bet on sports, simply because residents would be legally authorized to do so. Legal, regulated, licensed, and taxed sports betting would bring in more tax revenues for the city, which in turn would lower Matt Kaszejna’s taxes or make it less likely his taxes would be raised.

To the gambling community, it is a win-win proposition. They pay for the entertainment of betting on sports, but around 50% of the time win back their entertainment dollars. No one who dislikes gambling has to do it, though they benefit from the taxes raised from other people’s entertainment.

Legal U.S. Sports Betting

Americans can debate local and state sports betting laws because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on May 14 that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) was unconstitutional. The law, which went into effect in 1993, had banned sports betting in 46 US states and single-game sports bets in 49 states.

Because it favored one set of states over another and it took from state governments (and gave to the federal government) the right to ban sports betting inside a single state, the Supreme Court ruled PASPA was unconstitional. The fairness principle under the Commerce Clause of the US constitution and the equal sovereignty status between the federal and state goverments were at stake.

Since the SCOTUS decision, US lawmakers in New Jersey, Mississippi, and West Virginia moved to legalize sports betting in their states. Delaware’s lawmakers moved to legalize single-game sports betting, where before they had approved sports lotteries — parlay bets on 3 or more games at a time.

The decision is expected to create a burgeoning new American sports betting industry which will bolster land-based casinos in dozens of states. Washington D.C. appears to be the next American enclave of sports betting, but it won’t be the last.