D.C. Sports Betting Bill Would Allow Sportsbooks in Professional Sports ArenasBy Jill R. Dorson | Published: November 30, 2018 at 4:53 pm
If the sports betting bill that’s currently on the table in Washington, D.C. is approved as written on Tuesday, the District will be on the cutting edge of sports betting — the bill allows for five professional sports stadiums in Washington to have 24-hour-a-day sportsbooks that are open to the public.
According to Councilman Jack Evans, the plan is to allow professional sports teams to open sportsbooks at Nationals Park (MLB), Audi Stadium (MLS), CapitalOne Arena (NBA and NHL), the Wizards practice facility and the yet-to-be approved/opened RFK Stadium (NFL).
The sportsbooks would be open to the public, with no ticket to a game required, and patrons would be able to place sports bets at any time. The locations will be referred to as “sports betting parlors.”
“The professional venues are clearly a real big market for everyone because everyone who goes the game wants to bet,” Evans said in an interview with Sports Handle on Friday. “My understanding is that the facilities, either leased or owned by the pro teams, are going to build (sports) betting parlors.”
The concept is relatively new — only the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders have dipped their toes into the idea of having a sportsbook on site. While gambling is currently prohibited at sporting venues in Las Vegas, the Raiders have partnered with Caesars Entertainment, and Becky Harris, chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, told the Las Vegas Journal-Review in November that if gaming proposals for sports venues — sports betting or otherwise — are brought to her attention, she’ll “assess them on their merits.”
Should the D.C. Council approve the sports betting bill it is considering, it will set precedent, and perhaps open the floodgates across the country. Right now in New Jersey the NHL’s Devils have partnered with bookmaker William Hill for a William Hill Sports Lounge inside the Newark’s Prudential Center.
When that deal was announced in late October, ESPN reported that because the NHL is/was not comfortable with the venue being an actual sportsbook in which bets can be placed at windows and kiosks, instead, “company ambassadors” will assist bettors in downloading William Hill‘s betting app to make wagers online.
In D.C., Evans isn’t shy about saying that money is driving the process and shaping decisions as the Council moves forward with its sports betting bill.
“The ultimate goal is to make a lot of money,” he said. “That’s just what it is.”
The current bill calls for 50 percent of the revenue from sports betting to be earmarked for early childhood education (ages 0-3) and 50 percent to be used for violence prevention. And the Council is being very aggressive about keeping District of Columbia sports betting dollars at home.
D.C. Council Wants to Beat Neighboring Maryland and Virginia to the Punch on Sports Betting
“In my long tenure … I think we missed out on the casinos,” Evans said. “So the MGM Grand opened just outside of my city (in Maryland) and we missed all of that revenue, but we’ll beat Maryland and Virginia to the punch on this.”
Sports betting has been discussed in both states, and a sports betting bill was pre-filed in Virginia in late November. In addition, West Virginia has legal sports betting, and parts of the state are just a little more than an hour’s drive from the District. West Virginia sportsbooks have already started advertising in the District.
The decision to put sportsbooks in professional sporting venues isn’t the only thing that make Washington’s sports betting bill unique. According to the current text of the bill, the only sports betting app that will accessible in the city will be the D.C. Lottery app — unless you’re sitting in one of the professional sports arenas.
Inside those spaces, the only app that will be available will belong to the partner of the professional team that plays in the venue. Either way, District residents will be prevented from using apps from companies like DraftKings or FanDuel or any other operator in the city, essentially giving the lottery a monopoly on mobile and internet sports betting around the city.
The bill will go before the Council for a first reading on Tuesday. At that time, council members can offer amendments. The next step will be a second reading and vote before the Committee of the Whole on Dec. 18. Should the Council approve the bill, it then must be signed by the D.C. mayor before being sent to Congress (standard protocol for all D.C. legislation).