Washington D.C. Sports Betting and Online Gambling

Washington D.C. itself does not have much of a gambling industry to speak of, but it does have legal sports betting thanks to a law passed in 2019 authorizing in-person sportsbooks and mobile betting apps.

Additionally, the city is surrounded by gambling-friendly states with numerous casinos within driving distance. As it stands right now, the legal forms of gambling actually located within the District of Columbia are the local lottery, daily fantasy sports (DFS) and sports betting.

Legal Washington DC Betting Sites

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Other Washington DC betting options will remain fairly limited for the foreseeable future. The lottery and fantasy sports are all that’s on offer right now. Online horse racing betting is also restricted, but DC residents are just a short drive away from Laurel Park which accepts in-person wagers.

Legal Washington DC Sports Betting

Washington DC sports betting law permits one sportsbook located in four of the city’s major stadiums, sportsbooks at authorized retailers not located within two blocks of a stadium and through a mobile betting app managed by the DC Lottery.

The law was approved in early 2019 and the first in-person sportsbooks are expected to be live in time for the start of the NFL season. Online betting will take a bit longer to implement as the DC Lottery finalizes its contract with Greek gaming company Intralot, develops the technology required to run a mobile betting app and then get it all approved by the DC council.

DC Lottery officials have stated they believe mobile betting will not be available until January 2020 at the earliest. And considering how Washington DC works, don’t be surprised if the actual start date comes a bit later.

Once everything gets up and running, here’s how sports betting will work in DC:

  • Sportsbooks at stadiums: Capital One Arena, Audi Field, Nationals Park and the St. Elizabeth’s East Entertainment & Sports Arena may each apply for a Class A license to operate a retail sportsbook.
  • Retail sportsbooks elsewhere: Bars, restaurants and certain other establishments not located within two blocks of a stadium may apply for Class B licenses to offer in-person sports betting.
  • Mobile betting apps: The DC Lottery has been granted a monopoly over citywide mobile sports betting. The DC Lottery sports betting app will be the only option that’s available across the city. Each of the four stadiums detailed above may also offer mobile wagering, but only for customers who are actually on-premises.

How and Why D.C. Legalized Sports Betting

The march to legal sports betting in D.C. began in 2018 when Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans introduced a bill that would legalize the activity and put the DC Lottery in charge. The bill was titled the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 and sought to legalize in-person and mobile sports betting within city limits.

The DC Council voted on and approved the bill in December 2018 to send it to the mayor’s office. After gaining the mayor’s signature, the bill was sent to Congress for a 30-day waiting period before officially becoming law. As it stands now, sports betting in DC is imminent. Local news outlets initially reported the first wagers would be taken as soon as Spring 2019, but that timeline has been pushed back to Fall 2019.

The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 established some basic ground rules:

  • 10% tax on gross revenue
  • Restaurants, bars and other establishments may receive 5-year licenses at a cost of $50,000
  • The four stadiums named in the bill may apply for 5-year licenses at a cost of $250,000
  • RFK stadium may not apply due to its location on federally-owned land
  • Mobile betting to be offered by a joint partnership between the DC Lottery and Intralot
  • Stadium with sportsbooks may offer mobile wagers to players physically present at the stadium
  • Stadiums have a two-block exclusivity zone within which no other sportsbooks may operate

Monopoly Concerns

The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 was a gift from lawmakers to the DC Lottery. Although stadiums will be allowed to accept mobile wagers from customers who are physically present, the DC Lottery has been granted a monopoly over citywide mobile betting.

Additionally, the law allowed the lottery to bypass the traditional bidding process for a third-party vendor to manage the mobile app, allowing the lottery to extend its existing relationship with Intralot to extend to sports betting. This has essentially eliminated any semblance of competition.

Wizards and Capital owner Ted Leonsis was critical of decision and put it this way in a statement issued in early 2019:

“We are disappointed that this bill creates a monopoly run by the DC 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.”

Controversy aside, Washington DC has pushed forward with its plans to implement mobile betting in partnership with Intralot. Early 2020 currently stands as the earliest expected date for mobile betting to be up and running in DC.

Motivations to Legalize Sports Betting in DC

Although Washington DC does not represent a major sports betting market with a population just shy of 700,000 residents, Evans said the bill would be important for the city with neighboring states poised to draw city residents across state lines to place their bets. The logic goes that if money is going to be spent on sports betting in neighboring states, the District of Columbia might as well legalize it at home, tax it and collect some revenue.

Evans specifically named the Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino in Charlestown, West Virginia as a prime example of money leaving the state. In a press release, Evans pointed out that the manager of Hollywood Casino has told media outlets that the sportsbook is “heavily targeting the D.C. metro area” due to DC having no legal betting industry.

As Evans put it, “We can be first and get a lot of money or 51st and not get any.”

Just a short drive away from DC, West Virginia has already enacted some of the most business-friendly sports betting rules we’ve seen to date with a licensing fee of just $100,000 and a 10% tax on revenue. If the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 passes in its current form, Washington DC will undercut WV on licensing fees but maintain an identical tax rate at 10%.

Delaware is the next-closest state with legal sports betting and the operating environment there isn’t nearly as competitive. The state’s casinos share half their revenue with the state, which is effectively a 50% tax on sports betting. Washington DC residents will likely find better lines and promotions at home once the first sportsbooks are operational.

Until sports betting goes live in D.C., West Virginia and Delaware will remain the closest options for legal sports betting right now. Atlantic City in New Jersey also offers sports betting, but that’s starting to get into longer distances than most are willing to drive – about 3-and-a-half hours by car.

Sportsbooks Near DC

Although Washington DC does not yet have its own sportsbooks or mobile betting sites, that process is currently underway. In the meantime, we do have some sportsbooks in neighboring states that aren’t exactly close but that also aren’t unreasonable for a day trip.

Sportsbook at Hollywood Casino in West Virginia

  • Drive time: about an hour-and-a-half
  • Address: 100 Hollywood Drive, Charles Town, WV 25414

Dover Downs Hotel & Casino

  • Drive time: about two hours
  • Address: 1131 North DuPont Highway, Dover, DE 19901

Casino at Delaware Park

  • Drive time: about two hours
  • Address: 777 Delaware Park Blvd, Wilmington, DE 19804

Harrington Raceway

  • Drive time: about two hours
  • Address: 1500 S DuPont Highway, Harrington, DE 19952

Gambling in Washington D.C.

Washington DC does not have much of a gambling industry aside from sports betting, the lottery and the occasional charitable gambling game. Under District of Columbia gambling law, nonprofit organizations may organize raffle, bingo and Monte Carlo nights if licensed by the DC Lottery’s Charitable Games Division (here).

DC’s gambling laws make for dry reading, but the gist of it is that almost everything except for the aforementioned lottery, sports betting and charitable games is prohibited. Under state law, it is a crime to offer gambling or sports betting to anyone else. Furthermore, anyone who loses $25 or more to anyone else may sue to recover those gambling losses.

Current gaming laws even go so far as to make it a crime to participate in sports betting. According to the law, any person caught making a bet or placing a bet on an athletic contest can be fined up to $1,000 and jailed for up to 180 days. Washington DC sports betting law is likely to change in the near future, but it remains illegal to participate in sports betting as of right now.

Casinos Near Washington DC

Even after the DC sports betting law takes effect, residents will still need to visit neighboring states for the full casino experience and other forms of gambling.

Casinos in nearby states have long attracted DC residents looking to scratch their gambling itch and that will not be changing any time. Washington DCs unique status as a city-sized lawmaking jurisdiction means you’re never too far from a full-fledged casino in another city.

Multiple casinos in Maryland and West Virginia are all within driving distance of Washington DC and are known to attract no small number of DC-area residents. Below are some of the best DC casinos that aren’t technically located in DC.

MGM National Harbor

  • Drive time: about half an hour
  • Address: 101 MGM National Drive, Oxon Hill, MD 20745

Horseshoe Baltimore

  • Drive time: less than an hour
  • Address: 1525 Russell Street, Baltimore, MD 21230

Live! Casino and Hotel

  • Drive time: less than an hour
  • Address: 7002 Arundel Mills Cir #7777, Hanover, MD 21076

Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races

  • Drive time: about an hour-and-a-half
  • Address: 100 Hollywood Drive, Charles Town, WV 25414

Horse Racing Betting in Washington DC

Washington DC does not have legal horse racing betting in any form. There are no horse racing tracks, off-track betting locations (OTBs) or any legal horse racing sites available to residents. Licensed horse racing sites such as BetAmerica and TwinSpires are prohibited from accepting state residents, so our options are limited here.

If you’re determined to enjoy a day at the races, your best bet is Laurel Park between Washington DC and Baltimore. Laurel Park is about a 40 minute drive depending on traffic and hosts races every Sunday through Thursday. While there, you can watch the races and place your bets in person.

Laurel Park receives a fair number of guests from DC and even has a page on its website with directions for getting there from the District of Columbia.

Laurel Park

  • Drive time: about 40 minutes
  • Address: RT 198 & Racetrack Road, Laurel, MD 20724

DC Lottery

The DC Lottery was established in 1982 and has since raised more than $2 billion for the General Fund. Money raised by the lottery for the General Fund is in turn channeled to support various public services such as education, recreation and parks, public safety, housing and senior and child services.

Additionally, the DC Lottery Charitable Games Division has issued more than 3,000 licenses to nonprofit organizations that have raised more than $123 million of their own for charitable causes.

The DC Lottery offers fairly high payout rates with an average of more than 50% of all sales going back to players in the form of winnings. To date, the DC Lottery has paid more than $3 billion to winners and continues to run strong to this day.

Games offered by the DC Lottery include various local draw games, scratch cards and multi-state games such as Powerball and Mega Millions. In all, the DC Lottery is comparable to other state lotteries despite the city’s comparatively small population.

DC Lottery Games:

  • DC-2: A two-digit game with six different bet types and a chance to turn as little as $0.50 into $50. Drawings are held twice a day, seven days a week.
  • DC-3: A three-digit game with nine ways to win and prizes ranging from $25 to $500. Drawings are held twice a day, seven days a week.
  • DC-4: A four-digit game with eleven ways to win and prizes ranging from $100 $5,000. Drawings are held twice a day, seven days a week.
  • DC-5: A five-digit game with 120 ways to win and prizes ranging from $25 to $25,000. Drawings are held twice a day, seven days a week.
  • Powerball: A multi-state lottery game with some of the biggest jackpots in the world. Past prizes have topped $750 million. Drawings are held twice a week.
  • Mega Millions: Similar to Powerball and equally massive jackpots. The record Mega Millions jackpot stands at $656 million. Drawings are held twice a week.
  • Lucky for Life: Buy a ticket for $2 for a chance at winning up to $1,000 a day for life. Drawings are held twice a week.
  • DC Keno: A traditional keno game with drawings held every four minutes and a top prize of $1 million.
  • The Lucky One: A monitor draw game played every four minutes after keno. Pick a number between 1-36 and predict high/low, odd/even or that exact number. Win 1.5x your bet amount if you correctly predict the high/low or odd/even outcome. Win 24x your bet if you guess the exact number drawn.
  • DC Fast Play: These are instant win games that work just like scratch cards except they’re printed on paper by your retailer and no scratching is necessary. There are many different fast play games to choose from.
  • Race2Riches: A virtual horse racing game that costs a dollar to play with payouts as high as $1 million.
  • Scratchers: Instant win scratch-off games featuring many different themes, prices and payouts. The biggest DC Lottery scratchers award a top prize of $1 million.
  • TAP-N-PLAY: Virtual instant win and arcade-style games such as billiards that are played on lottery terminal machines.

Washington DC Online Lottery

Washington DC does not have online lottery ticket sales. All entries must be purchased in-person from an authorized retailer. There are no plans in place at this time to take the lottery online.

However, there is a bit of interesting trivia related to the DC Lottery and online gambling. In 2011, Washington DC became the first jurisdiction in the United States to legalize online gambling. The DC Council approved a measure in 2011 to create iGaming DC and offer games of chance online to people located within city borders.

We often credit New Jersey as the first state to legalize online gambling (2013), but technically Washington DC was first to the punch. However, the plan was scrapped before it could be implemented amid concerns regarding the way the legislation was passed and connections between DC officials and the company that was awarded a contract to manage online gambling for the lottery.