Washington, D.C. Online Sports Betting Laws
You’d think everybody in Washington, D.C. would be too busy running the country to worry about sport. But sports betting is now legal in Capitol City and, with a franchise in all the big four sports leagues, there’s plenty to whet our appetites.
Administrative law and government relations attorney
Jennifer has a degree in Journalism from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated from George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C, in 2005. She's been living in Las Vegas helping clients in the casino and gaming industry, as well as other regulated businesses, across Nevada for over 15 years.
She has authored and co-authored numerous articles and books on US gaming law, including most recently, The Law of Regulated Gambling: A Practical Guide for Business Lawyers, American Bar Association (2020), and That (Expletive) Broad: Women Who Broke Barriers in the Casino and Gaming Industry (2020).
Is Sports Betting Legal in Washington, D.C.?
Yes, Washington, D.C. sports betting is now legal and the market is growing steadily.
Is Online Sports Betting Legal in Washington, D.C.?
Yes, Washington, D.C. online sports betting is legal, although for various reasons it has got off to a slow start.
How Old Do I Have to be to Place a Bet in Washington, D.C.?
If you want to place a sports bet in Washington, D.C., you need to be at least 18 years old.
You can place a wager at (or within a two-block radius of) Capital One Arena or Nationals Park, or go online with the only licensed district-wide app, GambetDC. You may register online to use GambetDC – simply go to the website and register there.
Validate the email that should be sent to you automatically.
To verify your account, you’ll need to supply a form of ID.
Top up the balance of your account and you’re good to go.
Like many states, Washington, D.C. moved fast when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was struck down in May 2018.
That move effectively opened the way for states (and the federal District of Colombia) to allow sports betting and Act 22-594, the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018, as amended by Act 23-2, was signed into law on January 23, 2019. This legislation cleared congressional review and became law on May 3, 2019.
The Office of Lottery and Gaming (OLG) is now the regulatory body for all licensed sports betting in the District of Columbia, as well as the lottery and charitable gaming.
However, for various reasons, Washington, D.C. sports betting has not taken off at the same rate as it has in other states across the US.
One of the key reasons is that there are no casinos in the state, so no obvious places from which to launch sportsbooks. Thus, the City of DC is looking to professional sports arenas, as well as bars and restaurants, as locations to host its retail sportsbooks.
William Hill opened the first retail sportsbook at the Capital One Arena in May 2021. This opening made history as the first ever sports betting venue to operate within a U.S. professional sports arena. The sportsbook operator had begun taking wagers at the Capital One box office, which it was using as a temporary sportsbook, in July 2020, and launched its mobile app (on which you may place wagers only within a 2-block radius of Capital One Arena) in December of 2020.
The only district-wide mobile app currently licensed in DC, GambetDC, launched in May of 2020. Operated by the DC Lottery and powered by Intralot, the GambetDCapp has failed to make as serious an impression on the local betting market as its retail-based rival, William Hill.
This is a reversal of the usual trend, where online and mobile betting turnover far outweighs its land-based counterpart.
The likely reason for this? It could be that the prices being offered at GambetDC are uncompetitive. The margins on the moneyline are also tilted too far in the operator’s favor. Just compare William Hill’s handle of $51 million in bets for 2021 to GambetDC’s $17.5 million for the year. And this disparity exists even though the district-wide app had launched two months earlier than William Hill’s temporary retail sportsbook at Capital One Arena.
William Hill’s retail outlet at the Capital One Arena started as a few pop-up kiosks. When fully upgraded in 2021, it will include ten self-service desks, 12 ticket windows, two VIP areas and a large event space.
Users can also download an app so that they can bet online while on the premises, or within a couple of blocks. William Hill has also shrewdly raised their profile in the DC area. Their compelling sports betting offering is now complemented by their status as official betting partner of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals – who both play at the Capital One Arena – as well as the Washington Mystics.
Additional operators are entering the retail betting space in 2021. This includes BetMGM, which was granted their provisional Class A Operator license for a book at Nationals Park on June 4, 2021 and launched on June 10, 2021. You can now place a sports bet at a BetMGM kiosk in Nationals Park or from your mobile devices near or in the Park.
In addition, Betfair Interactive US just submitted their Class A Operator license application to the OLG on June 8, 2021.
There are also two hopefuls chasing Class B applications at hotels, bars, or restaurants at this time. Handle 19 was leading the way here, but in February 2021 it withdrew its application with the indication that it will apply again later in the year.
Yes. The IRS views money made through sports betting, like other forms of gambling, as taxable income. It’s a good idea to keep a close record of all the bets you place and declare any winnings on your annual tax return. When you bet through a sportsbook, it will keep a record of your winnings and report wins over a certain threshold to the IRS.
In many states, the minimum age for wagering is 21. However, you can enjoy Washington, D.C. sports betting from the age of 18 onwards.
GambetDC, the only district-wide Washington, D.C. online betting option currently available, can be accessed only when you are in the district.
The app comes with geofencing technology that can tell if you are outside the boundaries of the district and, therefore, not allowed to wager through it.
This restriction also applies to the monumental and governmental core of the city, much of the Potomac waterfront, and Rock Creek Park – another reason why take-up of the GambetDC app has not been as widespread as predicted.
You can bet on the best NCAA action when you are partaking in Washington, D.C. sports betting, but you can’t bet on the local teams. Wagering on college sides who are based in the district is not allowed under current legislation, even if the game that they’re playing in is outside the district. You also may not wager on any college games taking place within the District.
In keeping with many other states across the Union, Washington, D.C. also disallows wagers on high school teams.
Offering odds on political markets is forbidden for any sportsbook in the US, however in Washington, D.C., the heart of the country’s government, the restriction on betting on any election is keenly felt.
The Washington football team may have changed its name from the Redskins, but one thing that hasn't changed is the massive support the side gets from locals. With three Super Bowls in the locker, this is a respected team in the NFL world. The presence of some top college sides in the area adds to the enduring popularity of football as a spectator sport and a betting proposition.
It’s essential that any state allowing sports betting takes the cause of responsible gambling very seriously.
While sports betting is a leisure activity for most people, to a small minority it can bring issues relating to financial and emotional problems.
Washington, D.C. betting providers and administrators have put a raft of resources in place to ensure gambling in the district is carried out as responsibly as possible.
William Hill: The first provider of retail betting services in the district offers plenty of advice to ensure those who bet with the company do so responsibly.
DC government’s Office of Lottery and Gaming (OLG): The body with overall responsibility for all forms of gambling in the district sets out the framework for supporting resources that should be made available to people in the area.
DC Lottery: The organization that runs sports betting in the district offers a host of helpful materials for anyone concerned about their gambling.
National Council on Problem Gambling: The national body charged with making betting as responsible as possible offers services in the area and links to local and federal bodies.
Encouraged by the example of Oregon’s Sports Action game, there are moves to launch a similar product in DC. They do not get off the ground.
2018 - May
PASPA is struck down.
2018 - September
A bill is introduced to legalize Washington, D.C. sports betting.
2018 - December
The bill passes.
2019 - May
The Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act becomes law.
2019 - October
William Hill announces its intention to open a retail sportsbook at the Capital One Arena.
2020 - May
The state lottery’s GambetDC app begins accepting sports bets.
2020 - July
William Hill’s temporary retail sportsbook at the Capital One Arena opens for business.
2020 - December
William Hill’s mobile app (which is available for wagering only within a 2-block radius of the Captial One Arena) launches.
There are only two retail sportsbooks currently in operation: William Hill at the Capital One Arena and BetMGM at Nationals Park, but it is anticipated that more will join the list in 2021 and beyond. There are at least two Class B Operator licenses pending (these locations would be bars, hotels, or restaurants), and Betfair has recently submitted a Class A Operator license as well.
|Location||Retail Sportsbook Partner||Address|
|Capital One Arena||William Hill||601 F Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20004|
|Nationals Park||BetMGM||1500 S Capitol Street SE, Washington, D.C. 20003|
Yes, Washington, D.C. sports betting is legal, but it remains limited at the moment. The number of retail outlets allowed to offer sports betting services is expected to grow steadily, while GambetDC, the only district-wide app for online betting, is gradually improving.
Yes, you can use FanDuel to play Daily Fantasy Sports in Washington, D.C. Although FanDuel has also developed a sportsbook, this is not licensed for DC.
Yes, you can play Daily Fantasy Sports in DC and DraftKings is one of the leading providers of such games. However, it is not licensed to offer its sportsbook in the district; Washington, D.C. online betting is still limited to the district-wide app GambetDC.
At the moment, you have two options. To attend the Capital One Arena, where William Hill offers a retail sportsbook and an app that can be used on the premises; or to use the district-wide lottery-run sports betting app GambetDC. It seems clear that more options will be added in the near future.