Washington, D.C. is a name that instantly brings to mind lawmakers and governance. Of course, most people think of the U.S. Federal government when thinking about the region, but there is also the actual District of Columbia that must be governed locally.
One of the topics that flowed from federal to local government in the recent past was sports betting legislation. Washington is one of the early adopters of legislation in this area, and while it has some quirks, especially when it comes to online betting, it is still a good sign for residents that they will soon be able to place bets from the comfort of their own homes. This guide to online sports betting in Washington, D.C., is a full resource for players of all levels of experience.
A brief history of legalized sports betting in the state
The local government in Washington did not have to go far to do research on the fight to legalize sports betting across the United States – the case between New Jersey and the sports leagues across the country made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It wasn’t clear when the court would hear the case, if at all, but it did, and in May 2018, the Court ruled in favor of the state, repealing the law that was preventing them from regulating and offering sports betting.
The repeal of this law (PASPA) threw the gates open for any state to legalize sports betting, and many states rushed to pass bills in 2018. By the end of the year, sports bets were already being accepted in a handful of states. Some states, like Washington, D.C., had passed bills but too late in the year to launch any sites.
While 2019 brought with it the opportunity to launch retail and online sports betting in Washington, there were some significant delays based on the details in the bill itself. One major stumbling block was the fact that there had been only one online license approved as part of the language in the bill, and this license was given to the D.C. Lottery and vendor Intralot as part of a renewal of their lottery contract. Not only did the license not go out to bid, but there were screams of conflict of interest regarding the deal with Intralot.
A long review transpired as a result of the backlash, and finally, in the fall of 2019, it was decided that the deal could stand. So, with that in mind, there is only one legal online sportsbook that has been approved for the District. Retail sports betting will be offered both inside sports arenas located in the region and also in any location that wants to apply for a license that doesn’t sit within a 2 block radius of any of the sports arenas.
Where you can make online sports bets in Washington, D.C.
So, with only one online sports betting license approved in the District, the only place you are going to be able to place online bets is with the D.C. Lottery App. However, as of January 2020, the app has yet to launch. The hope is that the site will be ready by Q1 of this year, and when it is live, you will be able to download the app to your mobile device and create an account from there. Creating an account is as simple as giving the lottery a few pieces of information, then you will be registered. After that, a deposit is the only thing stopping you from making a bet on your favorite team or sport.
What types of bets you can make in Washington, D.C.
When the D.C. sports betting app launches in 2020, it is likely that it will offer a full suite of bet types across all the major sports. For those of you that aren’t familiar with all the terminology, below is a quick summary of the best you are most commonly going to see.
Point spread bets are the ones that you have probably heard the most about if you watch sports on TV or listen to any sports podcasts. Spread betting is most common in football and basketball, where lots of points are scored in a game. A point spread is a way to even the betting line when there may be a mismatch between the teams involved. To keep the price of the bet even on both sides, the spread is a handicap given to the better team. This means that if you are going to make a bet on the favorite, that team has to win by a certain number of points (the spread) for your bet to be considered a winner. On the other side, the underdog only has to lose the game by less than the number of points it is allocated (“Covering The Spread”) for your bet to be successful.
If you don’t want to deal with all the point spreads and to worry if your team needs to cover to win, you can make a simple Money Line bet on a game. This is a bet in which you are choosing the winner of the event, no matter if one team is significantly better than another. The team that is favored to win has a more expensive price attached to it, as in this example:
Washington Nationals -175
Atlanta Braves +155
The numbers next to the team names indicate how much it will cost to bet on them to win. The negative number is listed next to the favorite, and is interpreted like this:
For every $100 you want to win back on the Nationals, you must wager $175.
For every $100 you wager on the Braves, you will win back $155 in profit.
Futures betting is something that is very common at a local level, as it tends to be abet where gamblers put their hearts on their sleeves. If you think this is the year that the Washington Capitals are going to win the Stanley Cup, then you can place a wager on them at the beginning of the season at whatever odds the sportsbook offers. These odds update with every game that is played as the season progresses, so if you miss out, you can always grab a bet on your team at any point.
Proposition Bets (Props)
If there is some part of a game that can be bet on, a sportsbook usually offers odds on it. Prop bets don’t usually factor in the score of the game at the final buzzer but focus more on elements of the game. For example, this could be a simple prop bet:
Total home runs hit by the Nationals in the game:
Over 1.5 -110
Under 1.5 -110
A simple proposition on one small part of the game. There are hundreds of possible prop bets that can be offered, and online sports betting makes it easier than ever for sportsbooks to post these offers.
Parlays are bets on multiple outcomes of sporting events. You must make a minimum of two selections, and then you need to win them all to win your bet. If you are lucky enough to get all your selections correct, you will be paid according to this odds table:
2 Team Parlay 2.6 to 1
3 Team Parlay 6 to 1
4 Team Parlay 11 to 1
5 Team Parlay 22 to 1
6 Team Parlay 45 to 1
7 Team Parlay 90 to 1
8 Team Parlay 180 to 1
9 Team Parlay 360 to 1
10 Team Parlay 720 to 1
A type of bet that became very popular for fans of European soccer, in-play betting, is making its mark on North American sports as well. If you miss out on a bet before a game started in the past, you could not make a bet on the final outcome. Now, with live odds feeds updating in real-time, you can make a wager at any point in the game. If your team goes down a goal early but you think they will come back, then you will get better odds on that outcome than if you had bet on them at the beginning of the game! This is the future of sports betting, so if you get a chance, you should give it a try.
Payments to and from online sports betting sites in Washington, D.C.
While there is no site to confirm this with currently, it is assumed that when the online sports betting app launches in D.C., it will give players the option of using most of the following payment methods:
- Credit Cards
- Debit Cards
- Prepaid VISA
- Pay Near Me
This list will be updated when the site has launched.
Washington, D.C. Sports Betting FAQ
Can I play at offshore sports betting sites from Washington?
You can, although we do not recommend this to any of our readers. Even though there has been legislation passed to allow for licensed sports betting in Washington and other states around the country, the offshore sites remain out of the reach of any U.S. jurisdiction. There is no indication that they are going to close their doors, so you may still see opportunities to make deposits and play with these sites. With the increased difficulty in payment processing and the inherent risk that the site could simply walk away with your balance, it just doesn’t seem like a smart move when online sports betting is coming to the District in a regulated way.
Are there any sports I can’t bet on in Washington, D.C.?
At this stage, there does not appear to be any restrictions on what the online sports betting site that will be available in Washington can offer. Of course, what sports, games, and bets are offered is still up to the discretion of the operator itself, so we’ll have to wait for launch to see if anything obvious is missing from their odds feed.
When will other sportsbooks be allowed in Washington, D.C.?
From a retail perspective, there will be plenty of options for sports betting. Having a monopolistic environment for online sportsbooks isn’t ideal for those looking for choice. For now, there is no discussion of expanding the law – they haven’t even launched yet – but after a few months to a year of operation, there will no doubt be suggestions of allowing competition into the marketplace.