On Tuesday, DC Council passed a bill legalizing sports betting in the District. The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 passed by a vote of 11-2.
The bill was proposed by Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2-D) and comes in response to a May Supreme Court decision that struck down federal law prohibiting sports betting outside of Nevada. Since then, Delaware, Jew Jersey, West Virginia, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania have moved to legalize it.
While Virginia and Maryland have indicated interest, according to Evans, the District is the first in the area to approve legislation. The council also approved emergency legislation allowing sports betting to begin as soon as the bill is signed by the mayor.
It’s so important for us to get our legislation done and get our sports legislation up and running, so we can be the first in the region and hopefully capture some of the market,” said Evans in introducing the bill’s second reading.
RFK Stadium was included as venue for sports wagering operations in the original bill, but was removed after an amendment proposed by Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) at first reading Dec. 5. Allen noted that legislation prohibits gambling on National Park Service (NPS) grounds, where the stadium is located. The property is under lease to Events DC, the District’s sports an entertainment authority. Evans argued that the stadium is District property and so under District law.
“RFK Stadium is not a sports venue,” said Allen. “It is a rusting, empty shell. Since DC United has moved into Audi Field it’s not a place where sports take place, except for some youth sports activities nearby.” Allen said that he realized there might be a conversation down the road about a new stadium and, if so, that was the time to have the conversation.
Evans pointed out that the RFK was actually located in Ward 7, and asked Councilmember Vincent Gray (Ward 7-D) for his view. Gray said his opinion the venue should remain listed. “As one who has been clear about my support for an additional stadium, a new stadium there, I would want to make sure that those options are left open,” he said.
“Putting a sports gambling facility next to some youth soccer fields and a go-kart track doesn’t seem like what we’re intending to do here,” he said, arguing that the council could debate the inclusion more appropriately when the possibility of a new stadium on the site is discussed.
The amendment passed 7-5.
Revenue from the bill is expected to generate 7.5 million in Fiscal Year 2019 and 91.4 million over the next four years.
Money generated from the bill will be used to fund the Birth-to-Three for All DC Amendment Act of 2018, which provides for the health and wellness of young children, as well as to the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) and towards non-violence programming.
Betting will be overseen by DC Lottery. Bets can be placed by people 18 years and older on a mobile app, and licensed private businesses such as restaurants or liquor stores, or at sports venues.
Four sporting venues are included in the bill: Capitol One Arena, Audi Field, Nationals Park and St. Elizabet’s East Arena. Each will pay $50,000 annually for a licensing term of five years.