WASHINGTON - It is estimated as many as 30 states could legalize gambling within the next year and D.C. wants a piece of the action. Now, a bill has been introduced to legalize sports betting in the city.
It would be run by the DC Lottery and large sports venues such as Nationals Park, Capital One Arena and Audi Field could be some of the places where people would be allowed to bet on sports in the nation's capital.
In May, the Supreme Court ruled states could legalize sports betting. Prior to the ruling, Nevada was the only state in the United States where sports bets could be made. Now, the high court's ruling means other states are going after those sports betting dollars.
"There is $150 billion of underground gambling on sports in America," said D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans, who introduced the bill. "How do you bring that $150 billion above ground so that they will bet with the District of Columbia instead of betting with my bookie?"
At first, D.C. would license sports facilities and bars for betting, but also eventually create a sports betting app, which Evans believes is crucial.
New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and Mississippi are already up and running for sports betting. Pennsylvania has also legalized it, but betting has not been rolled out yet.
However, gambling experts caution that other states within driving distance of D.C. already have big head starts on this and it is not clear if D.C. or any other state will be able to turn illegal gamblers into legal ones.
"There is a massive existing illegal market, but the challenge here is once you legalize, regulate and tax it, how many of those people who already have that app, who are already betting offshore are really going to go register and pay taxes with the D.C. government or any others?" said Keith Whyte, the executive director for the National Council on Problem Gambling.
How soon could people begin placing sports bets in D.C.? Evans said hearings on the issue could be held by December. If it does get approved, the first legal sports betting locations in the city could be up and running by next spring.