Sports Betting in D.C. is Finally Starting to Gain Some Traction

Aerial View of Washington DC Over a year ago, sports wagering was first signed into law in Washington D.C. on Jan. 23. 2019. However, it’s been a long and winding road since then to get an official sports bet made. However, it looks like the tides are finally beginning to shift in 2020.

“We want to get it right, rather than fast,” said William Hill US chief executive Joe Asher. “It’s going to be there for a long time, so we’re much more focused on getting it right and having something truly special than any artificial date.”

Possible Hang-ups

A big point of contention in the legalization matter has been the divided opinions among those who wish to see the sports betting industry thrive in Washington D.C. While it’s generally agreed that sports betting will help boost the economy, as we’ve seen it done in neighboring states like New Jersey, it’s unclear whether D.C.’s existing infrastructure has the ability to sustain these programs.

The uncertainty has caused many to drag their feet.

Another roadblock was when a D.C. citizen filed a lawsuit over the council approving a sole-contract with their current Washington D.C. lottery operator, Intralot. The contract was created so that Intralot could function at the District’s sports betting program, but it was done in a hasty effort to beat out neighboring states who were introducing sports betting.

The D.C. citizen filed the lawsuit claiming that the council “violated the federal Home Rule Act through its award.” While the lawsuit is out of the courtroom, it hindered the process of legalization even further. Currently, the D.C. Lottery says that city-operated sports betting will only be available sometime in the first quarter of 2020.

Potential Roll-Out Date

Despite the delays and roadblocks, Class B operators remain hopeful. Beth Bresnaha, Lottery Executive Director, says the office is looking to expedite the process and push things through, in a fair and transparent way.

The lottery is drafting proposed rules to D.C. retailers this spring, that will hopefully put them on track for an official rollout this fall. In the meantime, infrastructural upgrades will be made to retailers supporting sports wagering in order to handle the volume.

While geolocation requirements are causing some cost restraints, the Bet D.C. consortium (which boasts almost 30 bars and restaurants) has agreed to share some of the financial burden.

Capital One Arena Sports Book

As of now, the William Hill application for a sports book at the Capital One Arena is the only Class A or B application submitted. Asher said their goal for the Capital One Arena sports book and restaurant is to be able to have its doors open in 2020, ideally around the start of football in September, but no target dates have been set in stone.

The restaurant will have two working floors to work with, and William Hill may have an as-of-yet-unnamed restaurateur running the food operation. Their goal is to create a versatile location that offers an incredible sports book, and not just a location known for its sports book, plus a few extra amenities.

“It’s going to be in the nation’s capital, in between the White House and the Capitol, on top of one of the busiest Metro stations in the system, one of the busiest subway stations in the country,” said Asher. “There’s gonna be a lot of people coming and we want it to be something that people can get really excited about.”