DC Council Paves Way For Competitive Sports Betting Market With Budget Approval

Erik Gibbs

fanduel sportsbook sign

The District of Columbia is on the cusp of a major shift in its sports betting landscape. On Wednesday, the D.C. Council unanimously approved the Fiscal Year 2025 budget, which crucially includes the Sports Wagering Amendment Act of 2024. This amendment, if passed during a second vote expected next week, would open the door for a more competitive online sports betting market in the nation’s capital.

Currently, FanDuel, a Flutter Entertainment company, controls online betting in D.C., holding an exclusive agreement with the D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming (OLG). This deal allows FanDuel to accept wagers from most areas within the district. However, the Sports Wagering Amendment Act included in the budget aims to dismantle this monopoly.

While FanDuel enjoys online dominance, two other major players — BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook — maintain a physical presence in the district. These locations allow them to offer in-person wagering, but their digital offerings are restricted to a specific “exclusion zone” surrounding the stadiums where they operate.

BetMGM’s sportsbook is located in Nationals Park; Caesars is at Capital One Arena. Passage of the amendment in its current form would likely see both among the first to expand into the digital space upon approval.

The potential passage of the amendment would be a significant development for the D.C. sports betting market. With increased competition, residents could expect a wider range of betting options and potentially more favorable odds. Additionally, other sportsbooks, eager to enter this potentially lucrative market, would likely vie for licenses, further boosting the industry’s growth.

However, the path to a fully operational, competitive market isn’t entirely clear. The amendment still needs to pass a second vote by the Council next week. Additionally, the specifics of licensing and regulations for new entrants in the online market remain to be determined by the OLG.

If the Council gives its second approval, the changes will take effect in July.

Move to FanDuel over GambetDC proves successful

The move toward a competitive market comes after a tumultuous period for sports betting in D.C.. In May 2020, the D.C. Lottery launched GambetDC as the city’s first online sportsbook operator. However, plagued by controversies and consistently failing to gain traction, it was replaced by FanDuel in the middle of April.

The stark difference in performance between the two operators is undeniable. FanDuel, in its first full month of operation, reported $29.7 million in wagers placed in May 2024. This represents a whopping 450% increase over the $5.4 million wagered during the same period in 2023 under GambetDC.

GambetDC was never able to generate the returns the D.C. Council had envisioned. It still operates a few betting kiosks in the state, which brought in just over $189,000 in revenue in May, but these will soon disappear.

Despite FanDuel’s success, not everyone is enthusiastic about the expansion, including some with ties to FanDuel. D.C. United reportedly wants the D.C. Council to hold off on approving the amendment:

The potential impact of a competitive market extends beyond just the consumer experience. Increased competition could lead to more tax revenue for the district. FanDuel currently pays a 10% tax on its gross gaming revenue. With additional operators vying for market share, the tax revenue generated from sports betting could see a significant rise.

Despite the hurdles, the D.C. Council’s initial approval signifies a major step toward a more open and potentially more lucrative sports betting landscape for the district. If the amendment passes its final vote and the OLG finalizes the regulations, residents of D.C. could soon have a wider range of options to place their sports wagers, potentially leading to a more robust and competitive market.