Regional rivalries arise in dash for sports gambling cash
WASHINGTON — The Washington, D.C., councilman was in a hurry. As the city council prepared to pass a bill legalizing betting on sports, Jack Evans was eyeing states just across the city’s borders — Maryland and Virginia — that could prove stiff competition unless D.C. got established first.
“It’s important for us to get our legislation and our sports gambling up and running so we can be the first in our region and hopefully capture some of the market,” Evans said just prior to the bill’s 11-2 passage in December.
The council also adopted an emergency measure that allows sports betting to begin as soon as Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser signs the bill, skipping the review period during which Congress can veto a new D.C. law.
The race to collect bettors’ cash continues as another 20 or so states are poised during their 2019 legislative sessions to approve sports betting. They’re encouraged by some estimates that taxes on legal sports betting could add millions of dollars for their treasuries, though experts urge caution in anticipating that kind of revenue.
Seven states have kicked off sports betting since May 14, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which had effectively banned betting on professional and collegiate sports except in Nevada.
Delaware acted first, authorizing betting to begin June 5 (the governor made the first wager, on a Phillies baseball game, and won). New Jersey followed, June 14. Mississippi, West Virginia (another jurisdiction that competes with nearby D.C.), Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New Mexico also quickly legalized sports betting.
States on the cusp — where sports legislation was pre-filed or lawmakers have indicated their intention to do so — will begin to consider legislation this month. In addition to Maryland and Virginia, they are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Meanwhile, Congress is looking at regulating sports betting. New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer and Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch introduced a bill in December that would set minimum standards for states offering sports betting. It would require states to use the data — such as point spreads and betting odds — provided by the sports leagues.
The states that have legalized sports betting each have their own criteria for data, including allowing leagues to provide it.
The federal bill does not include an “integrity fee,” or a cut of the gambling revenue, for sports leagues. The leagues have successfully pushed to include that fee in some of the state measures.
In Washington, D.C., sports wagering would be available at venues such as Nationals Park and Capital One Arena, home to the city’s professional baseball, basketball and hockey teams.
Bettors also would be able to wager at restaurants and liquor stores that purchase a license, or by mobile app within the confines of the city. The D.C. Lottery would oversee the industry, ensuring operators obtain licenses and enforcing rules such as the minimum age requirement, which is 18.
The betting is expected to raise $92 million in revenue over the next four years, according to the city’s chief financial officer. Anticipating the money, the city has designated portions of it for early childhood education and gambling addiction treatment.
Most other states also are dreaming of dollar signs. The American Sports Betting Coalition, an industry group, estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion a year on sports contests. Experts suggest that legal sports betting will cut into — but not eliminate — illegal wagering.
General Manager Cheryl Duhon announces that SugarHouse Casino launches sports betting at its temporary sports book on Dec. 13, 2018.