Lawmakers moved quickly to approve sports betting in Washington, D.C. following the Supreme Court ruling that found that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) was unconstitutional. This removed the federal ban on sports betting and as a result, local legislators proposed an amendment to the jurisdiction’s legal code.
On January 23rd, 2019, Act 22-594 known as the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018, was signed into law. It was cleared by the US Congress and became law on May 3rd, 2019. The Office of Lottery and Gaming (OLG) then created rules and regulations for the industry and started the licensing process in December 2019 with a hope that sports gambling in Washington, D.C. would launch in early 2020.
However, it wasn’t until June 2020 that legal sports betting in Washington, D.C. became a reality when the D.C. Lottery launched GamBetDC . William Hill was then allowed to open a temporary sports betting retail booth at Capital One Arena allowing fans to place mobile bets while on-site. Then, in July of 2021, BetMGM launched its mobile sports betting app in the district. The app is geofenced to operate only within two blocks of Nationals Park.
Who regulates the Washington, D.C, sports betting industry?
The Office of Lottery and Gaming regulates the Washington, D.C. sports betting industry providing oversight and handling the operator license application process and all other regulatory matters.
Which legal sportsbooks are available in Washington, D.C.?
There is only one retail sportsbook location in Washington, D.C. — William Hill Sportsbook at the Capital One Arena.
A temporary William Hill retail booth was first opened in Capital One Arena in the summer of 2020. This has now become a permanent sportsbook officially launching in May 2021.
In early 2021, the Washington Nationals MLB franchise announced a partnership with sports betting firm BetMGM that will see a retail sportsbook open in Nationals Park.
Washington mobile sports betting apps
There are three mobile sports betting apps currently available in Washington, D.C.
GamBetDC was the first sports betting app that launched in Washington, D.C. The app launched in June 2020 and is run by the DC Lottery. GamBetDC is not tied to any specific location and is the only sports betting app that is available throughout the district.
William Hill’s retail sportsbook at Capital One Arena also offers a mobile app. However, use of the app is limited to a two block area around the stadium. Despite this, the William Hill app has dominated the online market in the district with a market share that hovers around the 80% mark.
BetMGM signed a deal with the Washington Nationals to become the MLB franchise’s sports betting partner. The deal allows the company to launch both retail and mobile sports betting within the district but, like William Hill, the mobile app is geofenced to a two block area that surrounds Nationals Park.
The BetMGM app launched in June of 2021 and took in $376,662 in wagers generating revenue of $81,070.
Washington, D.C. law states that major sports arenas and stadiums can apply for licenses for both retail and mobile sports betting. There are still two venues — Audi Field, and Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena — that have yet to take advantage of this option. This means that, in theory, we could see a further two mobile sports betting apps in the near future.
Daily Fantasy Sports in Washington, D.C.
There are no specific laws in Washington, D.C. that state that Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) are legal or illegal. However, the district classes DFS contests as a game of skill which makes DFS legal by default.
This means that local sports fans can use any of the major DFS operators that allows registrations from the district. But as the market is not regulated, players have no consumer rights.
There has been no indication that lawmakers will introduce DFS legislation in the near future.
What about online poker in Washington, D.C.?
With no casinos or live poker rooms in the district of Columbia, it’s no surprise that online poker is considered illegal in Washington, D.C. While there is technically no legislation that specifically refers to online poker, the state considers all games of chance illegal. Other states have made the distinction between poker and other casino games referring to poker as a game of skill, however, the district of Columbia has made no such move.
Despite this, local authorities are uninterested in going after the little guy and so locals often play on international online poker platforms that allow registrations from the district of Columbia.
Like DFS, there has been no legislative movement at all with regards to online casino or poker games and we don’t expect this to change any time soon.
Image credit: All-Pro Reels / CC BY-SA 2.0
Washington, D.C. sports betting frequently asked questions
Is sports betting legal in Washington, D.C.?
Yes, sports betting is legal in Washington, D.C. and has been live since June 2020.
Is mobile sports betting legal in Washington, D.C.?
Yes, Washington, D.C. is primarily a mobile sports betting market with several apps to choose from although only one is available throughout the district.
What sports can I bet on in Washington, D.C.?
You can bet on all major and college sports. However, you cannot bet on college events that involve teams from Washington, D.C.
What is the legal sports betting age in Washington, D.C.?
You have to be 18 years of age or older to place a bet in Washington, D.C.
Can I use a Washington, D.C. mobile sports betting app when in another state?
No. You must be located in Washington, D.C. to use the GamBetDC app. Other mobile apps are geofenced and can only be used within two blocks of their retail outlet.