WASHINGTON - Legal sports betting has taken a big step forward in the District of Columbia. At a hearing Wednesday, the D.C. Council says they could have a bill signed into law by the end of this year, which would give them a big jump on both Maryland and Virginia.
The D.C. Council is in session all year long while the General Assembly in both Virginia and Maryland will not be back in session until January.
D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) says if a sports betting law is signed by the end of this year, sports betting could begin in the spring.
"If we can get up and running before Maryland and Virginia and some of the other jurisdictions, we can capture the market," said Evans.
"It's either going to happen here in D.C. or it's going to happen in a place drivable from D.C., and if folks are going to spend their money, I would rather them spend it here," said D.C. Councilmember Robert White (D-At-Large).
How sports betting will be implemented in the District is the question the council is trying to figure out. Licensed kiosks in sports bars and betting parlors are a couple of ideas while daily fantasy sports apps such as FanDuel and DraftKings want in along with other smaller operators.
"If the goal is eliminate the unlawful market and create the largest possible revenue pool from legal regulated platforms, we believe an open competitive market is the only choice for D.C.," said FanDuel Chief Legal Officer Christian Genetski.
"Just let it open for everybody because if those guys are really who they say they are, let's compete and see who is the best," said Shane August, a sports betting supporter who testified at Wednesday's hearing.
There is opposition to sports betting in the District. Groups that helps people with gambling addiction say they get thousands of calls a year from people in D.C. and sports gambling isn't even legal yet.
"We appreciate the DC Lottery's support of this helpline, but the Department of Health provides no services for gambling addiction to any D.C. residents," said Keith Whyte, executive director for the National Council on Problem Gambling.
"Most sports bets are extremely bad bets," said William Michael Cunningham, a D.C. resident who opposes sports betting in D.C. "People participate in the hopes of winning in the face of very long odds. Betting with this type of odds is irrational."
Evans says he hopes to have the final version of this bill ready by November.