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What is the state of online gambling in Washington DC?

What is the state of online gambling in Washington DC?

In the past, gambling laws within D.C were restrictive. The D.C Council recently voted in favor of sports wagering, indicating the feasibility of having some form of licensed online gambling.

Paula M. Graham
Finance
Aug 13, 2021

Table of Contents

The District of Columbia or Washington D.C serves as the capital of the United States of America, and it’s not a state by itself. However, it’s also not part of any other state. 

In the past, gambling laws within D.C were restrictive. The D.C Council recently voted in favor of sports wagering, indicating the feasibility of having some form of licensed online gambling. 

All forms of Gambling in Washington D.C are regulated by the District Lottery. As of this moment, there are no physical gambling establishments in the District of Columbia. 

Due to that fact, gambling enthusiasts in the district have to travel to New Jersey, Maryland, or West Virginia for the brick-and-mortar gambling experience. 

The legality of online gambling in Washington D.C

The District of Columbia is yet to legalize any online gambling within its jurisdiction. It’s therefore illegal to operate an online wagering business within Washington D.C. However, the district laws do not prohibit residents from accessing offshore online gambling sites. 

The current federal legal framework on gambling only regulates banking establishments and the transmission of gambling information across state lines. This creates some wiggle room for players willing to seek online gambling services from offshore markets.

 The Department of Justice helped with the interpretation of the Federal Wire Act in 2011, establishing that states, including the District of Columbia, have the authority to assess whether to prohibit or legalize online gambling under state laws. 

To find out more about Washington DC online gambling, visit online-gambling.com. The site has a guide covering all matters related to iGaming in DC, from DFS and casinos to sports betting and lotteries.

A Summary of Gambling Laws in Washington D.C

According to the D.C Code, gambling is defined as “Playing any game of chance for property or money.” While this definition is so broad to include online games, it still leaves some room for fantasy sports. 

Fantasy sports companies maintain that their contests are based on skills and not chance. Engaging in illegal gambling activities in Washington D.C is considered a misdemeanor punishable by six months imprisonment or a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

The legal gambling age in the district is 18 years, and all gambling laws are covered under the D.C Code. Recovery of gambling losses is addressed under sections 16-1702 of the D.C Code. 

Casinos in Washington D.C

No business establishment is permitted to offer casino games within D.C in any form. Tap-N-Play video lottery establishments are the only close substitutes to online casinos. These lottery terminals are akin to electronic scratchers. You can come across these terminals in select lottery agent locations in D.C.

Online gambling options are restricted to social casino websites such as MvVegas and Slotomania. The former platform is better suited for professional gamblers because it allows players to accumulate points that they can then redeem for comps in MGM casinos in New Jersey and Maryland. 

What’s in for Poker Players?

Poker advocates and fans make claims that competitive poker variants are better classified as games of skill. Nonetheless, D.C gaming control authorities regard poker as a game of chance, hence a form of gambling as per the definition of the D.C Code. 

Omaha and Hold‘em hold the same legal status as slots in D.C, making them illegal gambling activities in the district. Due to the strict regulations, D.C poker enthusiasts have no option but to travel to Atlantic City or Baltimore to pursue their favorite hobby. 

Washington had initially legalized online poker in April of 2011, but the district council later repealed the law in February of 2012. Ever since engaging in online poker for monetary gains is considered an illegal activity in Washington D.C.

The state of sports betting

The D.C Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act was passed in December of 2018. This law served to legalized online and land-based sports betting within the District of Columbia. Sports betting licenses are issued by the District Lottery. 

Sports betting shops are categorized into two. Class A betting shops located within four principal sports venues: Audie Field, Capital One Arena, St. Elizabeth’s East Entertainment and Sports Arena, and Nationals Park. These sports betting venues are surrounded by two-block exclusive zones, meaning they do not face direct competition. 

Class B sports betting shops operate under the same rules but without exclusivity deals. The first Washington D.C bookmakers launched in the Fall of 2019. Dog and horse race wagering is strictly restricted in Washington D.C. Online pari-mutuel platforms such as TVG and TwinSpire are also prohibited within the district. 

Daily fantasy sports in D.C

Paid-entry daily fantasy sports contests are not yet regulated in D.C. With federal attention shifting to sports wagering, there are low chances that the District Council will re-evaluate DFS contests any time soon. 

Nevertheless, operators are still offering DFS services in D.C even without a solid legal framework. Operators argue that the games are entirely skill-based and don’t fall within the definition of gambling envisaged under the D.C Code. 

District authorities are yet to challenge this claim, and since the public does not see fantasy sports as a major problem, companies such as DraftKings and FanDuel are heavily invested in the D.C market

Lotteries in Washington D.C

Lotteries in the district of Columbia offer an array of draw games, including popular options such as Lucky for Life, Mega Millions, and Powerball. Other D.C lottery products include Tap-N-Play, Keno, Race2Riches, and Fast Play Games. 

The Washington D.C Council made it legal for lotteries to sell tickets online when passing the online poker law in 2011. However, the relevant provisions were repealed the following year, making it illegal to sell lottery tickets online. Today, all lottery tickets must be sold via licensed land-based retailers. 

D.C Bingo

District laws allow charity organizations to host and run bingo games under the regulation of the District Lottery. However, commercial bingo is illegal in the District of Columbia. The same prohibition applies to online bingo games.

Will Washington D.C legalize online gambling?

With the recent legalization of sports betting in D.C, the district councilmembers might likely pass a law to legalize online gambling. The district is more likely to begin with the authorization of online bookies.

To even consider introducing online gambling establishments, the district will first have to implement some legal framework for physical casinos and poker rooms. However, the district is quite strict on gambling. If it were to legalize online gambling, the regulations might be very stringent.

Paula M. Graham | Paula is a writer and editor who works as a freelancer. She covers subjects such as banking, insurance, and digital marketing in his writing. Paula is a bookworm who also enjoys podcasts and freshly made coffee.

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