Washington DC Sports Betting

Though it is not a state, it is still vital that the District of Columbia is considered when looking at the overview of sports betting across the USA as a whole. The Washington DC sports betting scene is thriving, and with several teams based in the district, there is a healthy appetite from bettors.

Rules and restrictions within the district can be a little strict, but that does not mean that there are not plenty of opportunities for those looking for them. Most interestingly, there is a clause that requires geofencing to create a two-block buffer around any retail sports betting locations. This is supposed to help prevent competitors within the same area. There are few retail locations in DC for now, but there is a good choice in terms of apps. Such apps will only function within their affiliated buffer zones.

The capital of the USA attracts people from all over the country and beyond. The state of sports betting here is a true reflection of this. With concentration understandably on the major teams of the district, there is still a lot of interest across the whole sports industry.

Legal Online Washington DC Sports Betting

Since the district is unlike any other in the USA, it should not be too much of a surprise to learn that the laws regarding Washington DC sports betting are very different to elsewhere in the country. Firstly, unlike in many other states where the minimum betting age is 21, it is 18 in DC. Though the legal betting age is 18, bettors will need to be aged 21 to enter one of the retail sportsbooks.

Sports betting has been legal since 2020. There is only one app that works throughout the entire district. This is the Gambet DC app, which is operated by the DC Lottery. The other mobile options will only work within a two-block radius of the stadium that they are affiliated with. This measure will prevent competing sportsbooks from opening down the block from each other. In a naturally saturated market such as that offered by DC, this measure is a strange but necessary one. Other states have the luxury of allowing sportsbooks to open in different counties and cities. Having everything crowded in DC, a city not known for betting in the same way Las Vegas or Atlantic City are, would be out of place.

This geo-fencing also prevents people from betting through the Gambet DC app within the zones where other apps work. Bettors will find that many apps also don’t work when close to notable Washington monuments and certain areas of culture like the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument.

There are some strict restrictions in place in regards to what you are permitted to bet on in Washington DC sports betting. eSports betting is currently not allowed. Since this is such a massive market, both in the USA and further abroad, there is a chance that this is one restricted aspect of betting in DC that might be revised later. By not permitting betting on esports, the DC government is ultimately missing out on the revenue that can be generated from allowing esports betting in its sportsbooks.

Other restrictions prohibit betting on collegiate sports. Bettors cannot bet on games where a DC college team will be playing or any college event that takes place in the district. Betting on sporting events where players could be minors – such as high school events or the Olympics – is also prohibited.

How To Pick A Washington DC Sports Betting Site

There are currently three options for legal Washington DC sports betting online. Players who wish to play online rather than head to one of the retail locations should be able to find an app that suits them among the options available here.

The only app that is available throughout the district is the Gambet DC app. This is owned and operated by the DC Lottery. Though it is the only option that works across the whole district, the app itself has not received the best reception from the general public.

One of the alternatives is the Caesars by William Hill sportsbook. This app allows access within two blocks of the Capital One Arena. The other option is the BetMGM, available around Nationals Park. Both of these apps are the preference of many bettors within Washington DC, though they have the geofencing restrictions in place.

The other option might come from FanDuel. This provider has already launched several sportsbooks throughout the USA, including in neighboring Virginia. They have a partnership with DC United at Audi Field but have yet to create their sportsbook. As soon as they have approval from the DC Lottery to do so, we might see something emerge from them rapidly.

History / Timeline of Sports Betting in Washington DC

Washington DC sports betting was always going to have to be handled slightly differently compared to the rest of the country since this is a federal district and not a state. This was always going to affect the way in which sports betting was set up.

In spite of being a district, DC was still subject to the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). This prohibited the launch of sports betting in all states. Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and Delaware were granted exemptions from this as Nevada already had a legal sports betting market. The other three did not have a full sports betting market but did permit sports lotteries.

With this restriction in place, it would be unlikely that sports betting would launch in somewhere like DC. However, the Supreme Court decided to overturn PASPA in a historical ruling in 2018. Here, they deemed the law to be unconstitutional and returned control of sports betting to the states. In this district, this meant that the elected mayor and council were given these controls. In May of 2019, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed B22-0944, the bill to officially legalize and regulate sports betting in DC.

This was followed later in the month by the introduction of Gambet DC, with the other sports betting apps launching later that year.

Washington DC Sports Teams

Since it is the capital of city of the USA and home to many of the best museums and cultural centers in the country, one might not immediately think of sports when considering Washington DC. However, there are several major sports teams here. This might be surprising to some, especially as there are several states that do not have a single major league team, and yet the district is home to many. Since the district brings together people from all over the US and beyond, there is also quite the following for a range of sports, so a legal and regulated sports betting market only makes sense.

The NFL is represented by the Washington Commanders, who play out of the FedExField. They have claimed the Super Bowl title three times, most recently in 1991, and have made the playoffs on several occasions.

The Washington Nationals are the district’s MLB team, and play out of Nationals Park. They moved to the city in 2005 and claimed their first World Series title in 2019.

The Washington Capitals play in the NHL, from the Capital One Arena. They won the Stanley Cup in 2018. The Washington Wizards, the district’s NBA team, also plays out of this arena, and it is also used for many other cultural events like concerts. The WNBA team, the Washington Mystics and champions in 2019, play from St Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena.

Finally, DC has a team in the MLS, DC United. They play out of Audi Field and were Cup champions most recently in 2004. The Audi Field is also home to Washington Spirit, the NWSL team of the city and league champions in 2021, the DC Defenders, a football team in the XFL.

The district is also home to several other minor league teams across a wide variety of sports. There are also four NCAA Division I teams in the city. In line with the legislation in place, Washington DC sports betting is not available for collegiate betting. Anyone who wishes to place a bet on one of these teams will have to use another legal method to do so, such as heading to a state that legally allows collegiate sports betting.

Retail Sports Betting in Washington DC

The main places where one will discover legal Washington DC sports betting in retail locations are in the areas that have been granted Class A betting licenses. These are the licenses for sportsbooks located in the sporting arenas that have the two-block restrictions.

The first of these sportsbooks is in the Capital One Arena. This sportsbook is operated by Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Caesars Sportsbook also has a deal at Audi Field, so bettors will be able to find a sports betting lounge from this trusted brand here. The other place where one will find a retail sportsbook in DC is at Nationals Park. This sportsbook is operated by BetMGM. If FanDuel are permitted to start offering bets in the district, the launch of their app will likely coincide with the opening of a retail sportsbook.

These are not the only place where you will find retail Washington DC sports betting, however. The district also offers a Class B license. This is available to hotels, restaurants, and bars and is granted with support from the DC Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. Five of these licenses have been granted so far at Takoma Station Tavern, Ben’s Next Door, Grand Central Restaurant and Bar, Dirty Waters Sports Bar, and Lou’s City Bar. Venues like this could be the perfect alternative for those who wish to place sports bets without going through one of the Class A vendors. However, to be able to place bets in these locations, bettors must be aged 21+ as they have to be legally able to enter the bar.

Tribal Casinos

Though the National Indian Gaming Association has an office in the district, there are no tribal-owned casinos here. There are actually no legal casinos or licensed card rooms located within the state. Due to the nature of the district and the business that typically goes on here, it is unlikely that we will see a native tribe attempt to open some form of casino here.

To visit a tribal casino with a retail sportsbook, bettors will need to visit one of the neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland. Both have casinos a short distance from Washington DC.

Daily Fantasy Sports

Daily fantasy sports have not been explicitly banned from Washington DC. This is an interesting grey area that many providers choose to take advantage of. So long as daily fantasy sports have not been explicitly outlawed, they will offer their products to players. Some states have taken steps to fully legalize daily fantasy sports but the district has not opted to do so just yet.

The two operators offering games here are DraftKings and FanDuel. Both are popular daily fantasy sports providers who can be found across many of the states where these types of games are completely legal. These providers also offer sportsbooks in some states, but FanDuel is the only one thus far who has applied for a license to build and operate a sportsbook in DC.

Offshore Sports Betting

The restrictions that come with Washington DC sports betting might not be agreeable with some bettors. With that two-block betting zone for major betting brands and the lack of collegiate and esports betting, some bettors might decide that they wish to look elsewhere to see what they can find in terms of betting.

The logical choice can often be to see what offshore betting has to offer. If a bettor wishes to look into what these apps can offer, they should make sure that the sites that they are playing at are completely safe and properly regulated. These types of sites are usually regulated by countries like Curaçao and Costa Rica, and thus they can be considered to be safe to bet at. There is a regulatory body watching over them, and someone to therefore turn to if a player encounters an issue.

The same cannot be said for unregulated sites. These are operating illegally and without permission or regulations and should therefore be avoided at all costs. Though the deals and offers on such sites might look good, they are scams more often than not.

Washington DC Horse Racing & Off-Track Betting

There are no opportunities available for horse racing or off-track betting in Washington DC. The district is home to no racetracks, and we are unlikely to see one open in the city. Likewise, there are no off-track or simulcast betting locations within the district. Though we might see one of the retail sportsbooks consider this as an option in the future, there is no guarantee that this will actually happen.

As with tribal casinos, a bettor’s best option will be to head into a state like Maryland which does offer racetracks and off-track betting. These racetracks could prove to be the best option for those who wish to engage in horse racing betting.

Since pari-mutuel betting is not technically a legal form of Washington DC sports betting, bettors will not be able to access apps like TVG, as players can do in other countries that do not have racetracks. Heading to a state that does permit legal horse racing is the only choice here.

Final Thoughts / Summary

One would have expected Washington DC sports betting to take a different form than any of the states simply because it is rooted in the District of Columbia – somewhere that operates completely different from the rest of the USA. At the moment, some players might feel a little letdown based on the options available here.

The lottery-controlled app does not always have the best odds, and the better choice can often be the games run on the apps from corporations like Caesars or BetMGM. However, these might still not be a great choice for some thanks to that two-block radius. It does mean that those who wish to bet using these means would have to head towards the affiliated stadiums to place their bets and by the time they get there, they might as well go to the retail sportsbooks themselves.

On top of this, the restriction on esports and collegiate betting might also cause some to look elsewhere, especially when you consider that pari-mutuel betting is also not legal. With more unrestricted markets available in the DC metropolitan area just by crossing the border into Maryland or Virginia, the district council might wish to consider making changes if they wish to see a greater interest in sports betting in Washington DC itself.

However, the vast cross-section of people here, plus the presence of the sports teams, does make this a fantastic destination for sports betting. If more sportsbooks open, this should create a much more competitive market than we currently see.

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About Joe Kizlauskas

Joe is a seasoned iGaming copywriter and speaker who has been in the business since 2015. He's written more words on all elements of iGaming than he likes to remember, and he's contributed material to a number of well-known brands. Joe may be seen playing 5 a side, at the gym or playing games on his Playstation when he is not writing.