The decision to allow each state to decide its fate regarding sports betting occurred in Washington, DC. So it’s only fitting that you can now bet on sports there. Washington, DC, is home both to online and retail sports betting, and anyone in the district who is 18 or older can play.
Of course, in true bureaucratic fashion, the logistics of sports betting in DC have been quite the mess. Amazingly, and in contrast to everywhere else with legal sports betting, betting at physical sportsbooks has been much more successful in DC than it has online. The DC Lottery’s GambetDC app can’t compete with William Hill’s sportsbook at Capital One Arena. Things like “buffer zones” and Intralot are now part of the US sports betting lexicon. In short, DC sports betting is complex.
While sports betting is legal in DC, it’s an oddly mutant form of sports betting. In a way, it’s an excellent microcosm of everything good and bad about America, so maybe it’s appropriate. Anyway, this page will take you through all the different aspects of sports betting in Washington, DC. As time goes on, we hope to have more good news to report about more “normal” sports betting in the district. For now, settle in, and embrace the weird.
Best online sports betting app in DC 2021
Is sports betting legal in DC?
Yes. Sports betting is legal in Washington, DC. On its face, the system is relatively simple to understand. However, the truth is far more complicated, so you might want to pour yourself a drink before you dive into the sections below.
Are there online sportsbooks in Washington, DC?
Yes. You can place bets both online and in person in DC. But to use a sportsbook app in the district requires understanding the rules of play. Apps are geofenced to specific areas. GambetDC is the DC Lottery’s official sports betting app and is available throughout the district. A William Hill app is also available in its geofenced area around Capital One Arena. BetMGM Sportsbook DC is available in a geofenced area in and around Nationals Park.
Can you play daily fantasy sports in DC?
Sort of. You can play daily fantasy sports in DC through your mobile devices or laptops if you like. Both DraftKings and FanDuel appear to accept players from DC. There is no law specifically approving DFS in DC, but it does not appear as if the City Council or the US Congress are particularly concerned about clearing up this gray area of the law.
Who regulates the DC sports betting market?
The DC Lottery. Because there are no casinos inside the city limits of Washington, the most natural place for legislation to assign oversight was with the city’s dedicated lottery commission. The DC Lottery serves as the de facto commission for gambling in DC, overseeing charitable bingo and raffles along with its eponymous games. DC also allows online lottery purchases, so a hybrid retail and mobile sports betting market would, in theory, not be a problem for the DC Lottery to handle. Unfortunately, some external factors have prevented the lottery commission from running the tightest of ships.
How DC sports betting works
Sports betting in Washington, DC, came about via a 2019 bill from the DC City Council. Six council members sponsored the bill, B22-0944 (later Act B22-594), highlighting the importance of the issue. The panel spent a month and a half working on and passing the proposed law before sending it to Mayor Muriel Bowser for her signature. Bowser signed the bill in February 2019, but as required by the US Constitution, all new laws in the District of Columbia have to receive approval from Congress, too. So, sports betting did not officially become legal in Washington until May 2019.
The DC Lottery regulates sports betting as well as operating it in part. The lottery is the only provider for mobile sports betting throughout the district. The lottery’s app, GambetDC, has been a troubled endeavor and has featured point spread odds at a far greater disadvantage to bettors than those at typical sportsbooks.
Types of sports betting licensing in DC
B22-0944 also provides for two types of sportsbook licenses: Class A and Class B. Both classes of license permit a company to operate a retail sportsbook somewhere inside the District of Columbia. Both classes also may provide minimal app usage. Class A licensees can provide betting via app in a two-block radius of their venue. For Class B licensees, app usage is restricted to their property’s premises.
Class A licenses are reserved for major sports venues inside DC:
- Audi Field
- Capital One Arena
- Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena
- Nationals Park
Class B licenses are available to almost anyone. Bars, restaurants, independent sportsbooks and even strip clubs have applied to offer sports betting to their patrons. However, DC has yet to issue any Class B licenses.
Class A licenses in DC
So far, the only facility using its Class A license is Capital One Arena, home of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals. The arena partnered with venerable sports betting company William Hill to open its retail and, later, online sportsbook. As far as other venues, BetMGM launched its online operations in DC at Nationals Park in June 2021. FanDuel and Audi Field announced a partnership in October 2020, but FanDuel has yet to move forward with its licensing.
St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena, home of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the G League’s Capital City Go-Go, has not announced its sports betting partner officially. However, given that Monumental Sports, the owner of the Wizards and Capital One Arena, is also the owner of the Mystics and Go-Go, William Hill could get a second District of Columbia location before too long.
Class B licenses in DC
With regard to Class B licenses, several establishments have come and gone in their attempt to become a regulated sports betting provider. At present, there are no Class B licensees active in the District of Columbia. Early license attempts came from DC bars Duffy’s Irish Pub, the Wet Dog Tavern and the Brig.
However, the application notice published by the DC Lottery no longer lists any of those venues as engaged for a review. The only three Class B seekers listed now are the bar Grand Central DC, an independent sportsbook contractor called Handle 19 and DC gentlemen’s club Cloakroom DC. Grand Central and Cloakroom remain under review. Handle 19 has withdrawn its application but is looking for a different venue. The independent sportsbook ran into difficulties with its prospective neighbors in Capitol Hill and is having to look elsewhere for friendlier pastures.
Regardless of class, potential licensees may, in addition to their license application to the lottery commission, have to submit an application for a substantial change to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. If the licensee was already serving drinks at its location (which most are), then there are new rules surrounding the service of alcohol to those who might be wagering.
DC sports betting restrictions
One notable aspect of the law that is buried under several layers of regulation is its list of restrictions. Although the text of the law is not particularly forthcoming about this fact, there are several things that you cannot wager on. DC Municipal Regulation Section 30-2127 tells us that the following types of events are banned from DC sportsbooks:
- Any game in which a District of Columbia college or university takes part.
- Any college game that takes place inside DC.
- All high school sports.
- Amateur events outside of the Olympics, international events where minors are a minority of participants and college games not involving DC teams.
- Any college game where the licensee knows that a player or coach is betting.
In short, as long as you’re keeping it professional, outside of DC, and not involving colleges from DC, you’re in the clear. This rule is a blow for Georgetown fans, to be sure.
Which online sportsbooks will launch in DC?
There are only four online sportsbooks that are confirmed and/or already active in the district:
- GambetDC (live, district-wide)
- William Hill (live, Capital One Arena)
- BetMGM (live, Nationals Park)
- FanDuel (not live)
FanDuel has inked a deal with a potential Class A licensee in the District of Columbia to offer its sportsbook app, albeit through the unusual geofenced limitation. The DC Council authorized BetMGM to launch in June 2021, as almost every sportsbook company in the US knows that a pre-NFL season debut is preferable. BetMGM is a great addition for DC sports bettors, as it allows them to accrue reward points for redemption at MGM National Harbor in Maryland. The app also features an expanded version of the cash-out option called Edit My Bet, which allows you to do almost anything with your open wagers, aside from canceling them outright.
FanDuel Sportsbook made headlines in October 2020 when it partnered with the DC United. It was the first time that FanDuel had joined forces with a Major League Soccer team. However, the relationship has not yielded a DC sportsbook for the DFS titan just yet. The deal should see FanDuel open shop at Audi Field, home of the DC United. The company hasn’t filed for a license yet, though, so it’s not clear when FanDuel intends to join the party. Once it does, however, DC residents will discover why FanDuel is one of the top sportsbooks in the country. Its blend of fast technology and copious bonuses makes it a must-try for serious sports bettors.
Do I have to be in DC to bet online?
Yes. In fact, being in DC is just the starting point. As it turns out, it matters where in DC you are for most online sportsbook apps you’ll find in our nation’s capital. For one thing, sports betting cannot take place across state lines, thanks to the Wire Act of 1961. So, if you were planning on making a bet from Alexandria or Laurel, forget it. It’s not going to happen, no matter what DC sportsbook you want to try. However, Virginia sports betting is live, and as long as you use a VA sportsbook app and are located in that state, you can bet in Alexandria.
Now, Washington, DC is not a large place in terms of land area. The original plot for the capital was a 10-mile-by-10-mile square carved out of Maryland and Virginia that straddled the Potomac River. However, the ceding of the land to the federal government did not sit right with either state, particularly Virginia. So, in 1846, the DC land on the west side of the Potomac was given back to Virginia in a process known as retrocession. So, the 100 square miles of DC became just over 68 and took on the unusual shape that the federal district maintains to this day. It’s not very much real estate to house mobile sports betting, but DC’s trying to make it work. And it makes it work using buffer zones.
Where to bet online in DC
The only online sportsbook able to offer sports betting no matter where you stand in the nation’s capital, from Capital Crescent Trail to Capitol Heights or Colonial Village to Fort McNair, is GambetDC. GambetDC is owned and operated by the DC Lottery, which is also the regulator for sports betting in the district.
You can also place online wagers with William Hill within a two-block radius of Capital One Arena, aka a buffer zone. If you are unsure what constitutes two blocks, consult this map, provided by the Office of Lottery and Gaming. The two-block area is the northernmost blue section of the map.
That map is a good resource to bookmark, actually. All four of the potential online sportsbook zones are marked and will not change. Although each facility is at a different place regarding sports betting — from active (Capital One Arena) to making no moves yet (St. Elizabeths East) — the areas where you can potentially bet won’t change unless DC sports betting law changes.
The district will enforce its sports betting boundaries with geolocation verification software. You will have to allow each site to know your location to prove that you are within the required area. Geolocation software is actually quite adept at its job these days, and you probably won’t have more than a few feet of wiggle room if you want to test the boundaries. It might even be difficult to play in your car, due to the speed at which you’ll pass through the zone.
Long story short, you’re going to have to be quite intentional about placing a sports bet if you want to do so in Washington, DC.
Retail sportsbooks in Washington, DC
The legal situation in Washington for sports betting places no hard cap on the number of retail sportsbooks that the district can have. For that matter, given the specific limitations ascribed to the various classes of license, there’s no hard cap on the number of online sportsbooks, either.
In practice, the list of active or soon-to-be active sportsbooks in DC remains quite short. There are no Class B licensees with sportsbooks up and running at this point, despite the fact that several businesses have submitted applications since sports betting became legal in Washington in 2019. The only Class A licensee to launch has been William Hill at Capital One Arena. It is currently the overwhelming leader in DC sports betting despite being geofenced to a two-block radius around the arena. However, BetMGM launched its app and now appears to be on the cusp of joining the party at Nationals Park with a retail sportsbook later in 2021.
|Name||Address||Sportsbook Partner||Opening Date||Buffer Zone|
|Audi Field||100 Potomac Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024||FanDuel||TBD||Fort McNair|
|Capital One Arena||601 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004||William Hill||August 3, 2020||Chinatown, Penn Quarter|
|St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena||1100 Oak Dr SE, Washington, DC 20032||Not announced||TBD||Congress Heights|
|Nationals Park||1500 S Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003||BetMGM||Sometime in 2021||Capitol Waterfront, Navy Yard, Fort McNair|
Betting on pro and college teams in DC
There is no shortage of options for betting in the District of Columbia. In fact, there is a helpful executive order that provides an explicit guide for every type of sport and bet that you can make via DC sportsbooks. You can wager on the following sports in Washington, DC:
- Australian rules football
- Auto racing
- Mixed martial arts
The only glaring omissions on that list are esports, award ceremonies, and political elections. The law does not specifically provide for betting on those types of events. In fact, the language of the enabling bill only mentions sports as acceptable for wagers. However, there is a form that sportsbooks can submit if they want to offer betting on something not listed on the executive order. As long as the book gets approval, then it’s possible. So, if you want to bet on political events or other types of competitions not listed, lobby your sportsbook to make a request to the DC Lottery.
Now, because of Washington’s position as the nation’s capital and a prominent city on the international stage, there is no shortage of major sports teams that call DC home and major sports events that visit the capital annually. Here are some of the more notable teams that you can bet on inside the district:
The Washington Nationals, or “Nats,” came to the nation’s capital in 2005 as the former Montreal Expos. After two years playing in RFK Stadium, the team moved into its permanent home along the Anacostia River and has been there ever since. The Nats captured their first World Series title in 2019. BetMGM is expected to open a sportsbook location at Nationals Park sometime in 2021 for MLB betting.
- Washington Nationals: Nationals Park, 1500 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington, DC
The District of Columbia has long been a destination for the NBA. In fact, the city’s team began its life in 1961 as the Chicago Packers. Two years later, the team made a move to Baltimore and became the Baltimore Bullets. The team stayed in Baltimore before moving to Landover, Maryland, and adopting Washington as part of its name. The Bullets won the NBA title in 1978 with Hall of Fame center Wes Unseld and have appeared in four NBA Finals. Owner Abe Pollin changed the mascot to the Wizards out of his growing unease with the violent connotations of the Bullets moniker. The first retail sportsbook in DC opened at the Wizards’ home, Capital One Arena, in 2020 for NBA betting.
- Washington Wizards: Capital One Arena, 601 F St. NW, Washington, DC
There are no PGA Tour stops planned in the DC area at this time. However, the Congressional Country Club in nearby Bethesda is one of the most prestigious golf courses in the US and has hosted a PGA event as recently as 2016. It has been the host course for the US Open four times, including in 2011, and is likely on the shortlist to host a PGA event sometime in the near future. In addition, the LPGA will conduct its 2022 and 2027 PGA Championships at Congressional.
- Congressional Country Club: 8500 River Road, Bethesda, Maryland
Football is the most popular sport in the US. Unsurprisingly, NFL is the most popular sport to bet on. The Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year for every sportsbook, and DC is not immune to that phenomenon. The district is also home to the NFL’s Washington Football Team, one of the earlier squads to join the league. The team existed for most of its life as the Redskins, but the name was retired in 2020 due to its history as a culturally insensitive term for Native Americans. The team will select a new mascot in 2022. Interestingly, despite its location as the DC NFL representative, the team is headquartered in Ashburn, Virginia, and plays its games in Landover.
- Washington Football Team: 1600 Fedex Way, Greater Landover, MD
The top professional league for hockey, the NHL, is the least popular of the four major sports leagues in the US. Hockey’s appeal is not as ingrained in American culture as the other three types of games because of its cold-weather requirement. Nevertheless, the NHL has a quite successful member in Washington, DC. The Capitals, or Caps, share their arena with the Washington Wizards and Georgetown Hoyas. Betting on Caps games is easy due to the onsite sportsbook and app (both run by William Hill) that you can use for NHL betting.
- Washington Capitals: Capital One Arena, 601 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Mixed martial arts
Washington is not a hotbed of mixed martial arts action like other cities on the eastern seaboard. Fight promoters like the UFC and Bellator tend to focus on more traditional destinations such as Atlantic City or New York. Nevertheless, there have been a few stops from the UFC in the last decade or so. It’s likely that the UFC or other fights will make a stop in the nation’s capital again soon.
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world almost everywhere except the US. So, while there is a professional soccer team in residence in Washington, DC, Major League Soccer does not quite have the same level of prestige as the four other major professional sports leagues in the US. With the deep influx of international visitors to the District of Columbia, however, there’s no denying that the DC United will have a following. There will also be a place to bet — Audi Field, home of the DC United — has a partnership with FanDuel. Although FanDuel has not filed an application with the DC Lottery yet, a retail sportsbook and app at the venue is a certainty.
- DC United: Audi Field, 100 Potomac Ave. SW, Washington, DC
What types of sports bets are available in DC?
Here are the typical bets that you can make in DC sportsbooks, retail or online:
- Point spreads
- Propositions (or props)
Those are the most common types of sports bets. However, the advent of online sportsbooks, even in the limited sense that you find in Washington, has brought upon a new kind of betting. This has, in no uncertain terms, changed the whole game of sports betting.
Live betting, or in game betting, is when you wager on a game that is in progress. Live bets tend to come in three varieties.
- Partial game result. You might be asked who will “win” a certain period of play or what the outcome of a particular sequence will be. The technology is such that it can be quite granular about the betting options, so it’s not uncommon to see bets about the outcome of individual plays themselves.
- Statistical achievements. If a player seems to be on track to achieve a certain milestone during the game — number of points, yards or whatever — then you might see odds about the likelihood of that player hitting the mark. So, for instance, if a basketball player scores 10 points in the first half, a live bet might appear to ask if that player will finish the game with more than 20 points.
- Point spreads, moneylines and totals. These will not be the same bets that they were before the game started. The book has begun sharpening its estimates according to the progress of the game. So, if a heavy favorite comes out flat and appears to be off its game, you might see a point spread far smaller than it was before the game began.
What makes live betting worthy of special attention is the part we mentioned about partial game results. Sportsbook technology is able to offer wagering on micro-events throughout the course of a game as small as single plays. When you consider that, for instance, football games feature roughly 150 plays per game, the implication for betting is clear. It is now common to see more than 100 bets available on each game.
DC sports betting history
Sports betting, or the prohibition of sports betting, has flowed from Washington, DC, since its founding as the capital of the US. Since Washington is the wellspring for laws, executive action and judicial review in this country, any move toward or away from sports betting comes from the small area of land east of the Potomac River.
Both sports betting’s relegation to Nevada (and limited areas elsewhere) and its reemergence began as initiatives from the District of Columbia. However, it’s important to remember the context for each movement in the law that led to our current status. Sports betting has always been present in the US. In fact, pari-mutuel betting, if you consider that sports betting, stretches back into at least the 1740s in neighboring Maryland.
Unfortunately, gambling was the province of organized crime for decades before it became a corporate entity. Gambling parlors existed in the same place in the public consciousness as brothels and saloons, and the criminal element was woven into its very structure. By the 1960s, sports betting had become, in the eyes of law enforcement, a terrible problem. In order to combat gangsters and bookies placing wagers on the phone, the government enacted the Wire Act of 1961. The law, which banned sports betting communications over electronic wires, was designed to put another arrow into Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s enforcement quiver and cripple one major portion of the mafia’s business. Sixty years later, the Wire Act remains in place and is the reason why online gambling cannot cross state lines (except for poker sites under the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association).
If the Wire Act was a crime-fighting measure, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was a moral one. Citing findings from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks and testimony from professional league officials like the NBA’s David Stern, the Senate produced S. 474 to ban sports betting in any state not grandfathered. The big winner of the decision was obviously Nevada, which gained an effective monopoly over legal sports betting in the US.
PASPA finally ended in 2018 at the hands of the US Supreme Court. In a 6-3 decision, the court found that PASPA violated the commandeering clause of the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. New Jersey, which had been fighting to allow sports betting for nearly a decade at that point, shrewdly revoked its own law against sports betting, which put PASPA in the unconstitutional spot of denying a state the right to revoke its own legislation. Thus, in May 2018, sports betting became a question for each state due to a decision rendered in Washington, DC.
The district itself, of course, is not a state, but remains able to enact its own ordinances (subject to congressional approval). So, as PASPA became a thing of the past, officials in our nation’s capital began figuring a way to bring sports betting into the district. After some months of wrangling, the City Council produced B22-0944, the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act. In addition to creating a path for sports betting at four major sports stadiums in the city and almost any bar or restaurant, the new law designated the DC Lottery as the regulator and sole purveyor of truly mobile wagering in the district. All that remained was selecting an able sports betting partner for the DC Lottery to unveil its sportsbook platform.
GambetDC and the DC Lottery
In true political fashion, the DC City Council managed to select a sports betting partner for the DC Lottery’s sports betting app, GambetDC, in the most contentious way possible, with allegations of corruption and cronyism flying. Bypassing any kind of bid process, council members elected to award the $215 million contract to Greek lottery and sports betting provider Intralot. The chief proponent of the plan, the council’s Ward 2 representative, Jack Evans, drew quite a bit of ire from other council members and the public due to his connections to the company. Reportedly, Evans identified Intralot’s Washington lobbyist, William Jarvis, as a close friend and relied upon him for legal advice about a client of Evans’ NSE Consulting business. Evans later resigned from his office amid ethics allegations and a pending vote to remove him from the council. However, the decision to remain with Intralot as the sportsbook provider stands.
Of course, nobody would be complaining if Intralot and GambetDC had turned out to be an excellent online sportsbook. Other states, like Rhode Island and New Hampshire, have had similarly close and monopolistic structures involving their lotteries and a single sportsbook provider without much issue. However, GambetDC has drawn tremendous scorn and ire from the betting public due to its consistently outrageous betting lines. Where typical point spread odds begin around -110, GambetDC often hovers around -118. In other words, bettors must pay an extra 8% in vig to place a bet with the online book. For that reason, William Hill’s limited access app and retail operation have proven far more successful than GambetDC, despite the latter’s broader reach.
Needless to say, sports betting in Washington, DC has not been handled very well. In fact, it has likely served as a cautionary tale for other jurisdictions that not every version of regulated sports betting works. However, in a broad sense, we would not have sports betting as it exists in the US today without the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court of the United States. So, even though the city can’t do sports betting very well itself, all the great sportsbooks in the country should tip their hats to the “good” people in Washington, DC.