DC Sports Betting Revenues Falling Short of Funding Programs Promised at Authorization

The Council of the District of Columbia, sometimes referred to as the DC Council, is the legislative body of the local government in the nation’s capital. Recently, Mayor Muriel Bowser has reallocated sports betting taxes that were originally intended to support programs such as those related to combating violence, helping families with child-rearing, and providing resources for problem gambling.

In 2018, the DC Council passed a bill to legalize sports betting, which was signed into law by Mayor Bowser in early 2019. It was stated that the taxes from sports betting would be used to fund a variety of initiatives, including the “Birth-to-Three for All DC” program, which provides pediatric care and early childhood development support for families in need. It was also intended to contribute to the Neighborhood Safety and Engagement Fund, which would provide resources to the Metropolitan Police Department for violence prevention and crime intervention. Additionally, $200,000 per year was to be allocated to the DC Department of Behavioral Health for the prevention, treatment, and research of gambling addiction.

However, the city has recently decided to move the sports betting taxes to its General Fund, instead of using them for the stated initiatives. Consequently, the $200,000 annual grant for the prevention, treatment, and research of gambling addiction has not been used since the first bet was legally placed in 2020. Additionally, the $7 million that was to be split between the “Birth-to-Three for All DC” program and the Neighborhood Safety and Engagement Fund has also been moved to the General Fund. Chief Strategy Officer Rashad Young has said that the Mayor and City Council believe it would be more beneficial to transfer the taxes to the General Fund and then allocate the money to various programs as needed.

The DC sports betting law authorizes the use of retail sportsbooks in four professional sports venues: Nationals Park (home of the MLB Washington Nationals), Capital One Arena (home of the NBA Washington Wizards and NHL Washington Capitals), Audi Field (home of the MLS DC United), and St. Elizabeths Entertainment and Sports Arena (home of the WNBA Washington Mystics). Each stadium can partner with a sportsbook for both retail and online betting. Furthermore, small businesses such as bars and restaurants can obtain sports betting licenses with reduced costs, which allow online betting to take place on their premises. Four mobile apps (GambetDC, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, and FanDuel) are currently available for online betting across the District.