Sports betting is set to become legal in the nation’s capital. The D.C. Council voted, 11-2, on Tuesday to legalize sports gambling in the District.
In May, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling negated a decades old federal law and cleared the way for states besides Nevada to legalize sports betting within their borders. Since then, seven states have capitalized on the ruling.
Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, who sponsored the bill, pushed for D.C. to be the first one in the region to do so, citing competitive advantage. Sports betting is still illegal in Maryland and Virginia, but both states are considering similar bills. Maryland is home to several casinos, including the MGM National Harbor: Hotel & Casino in Prince George’s County.
Mayor Muriel Bowser, who supports the legislation,will still need to sign the bill before betting begins.
“Let’s just hope a lot of people gamble and we get a lot of money,” Evans said at Tuesday’s hearing.
The city projects receiving $92 million in revenue through a 10 percent tax on operators, according to an analysis from the Chief Financial Officer. Half of the bill’s yearly revenue will go to violence prevention programs, while the other half will benefit childhood education.
The city’s four sports stadiums, Nationals Park, Audi Field, Capital One Arena, and the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Ward 8, will be able to receive sports betting licenses, while other facilities, such as bars and restaurants, would also be able to apply for licenses, although not within two blocks of the stadiums.
DC Lottery will have a monopoly to operate a mobile-based app that consumers can use in their homes.
Before the bill passed, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie proposed an amendment that would require operators requesting betting licenses to partner with small local and minority-owned businesses. The amended passed unanimously.
Only Councilmembers David Grosso and Brianne Nadeau voted against the final bill.
Grosso, an at-large member, voted against the bill because of his concerns on gambling addiction and the effects it would have on people with relationship, financial, and legal problems, and how it could lead to job loss, poor general health, and suicide. “These are negative things we’re exasperating by moving forward with this legislation,” he said.
The bill includes $200,000 a year that would fund gambling addiction treatment, but Grosso said that amount would not be adequate. Ward 1’s Nadeau told WAMU before the vote that she has family members who have been addicted to online gambling, which played a role in her decision.
“I urge my colleagues to think about impact on people we should be giving financial advancement instead of trapping them in poverty,” Grosso said.
But those reasons were not enough to sway the council. Evans told City Paperlast month that his “goal” is to see fans running by Nationals Park on Opening Day “and betting on Bryce Harper taking the first pitch.”
Fans will able to bet at the stadium now. It just may not be on Harper.
Laura Hayes and Cuneyt Dil contributed to this report.