Legal Washington D.C. Gambling Guide

Washington D.C. FlagKnown as the capital city of the United States of America, the District of Columbia or Washington D.C. is not a state, nor is it a part of any other US state. D.C. gambling laws have been restrictive in the past. But recently, the D.C. council voted in favor of legal sports betting in Washington, D.C. So it’s very feasible that some sort of licensed online gambling could become available to D.C. residents soon. Here, we go over the laws on casino games, poker, and other types of online gambling. We also rank and review the top online gambling sites that accept Washington D.C. players.

All legal gambling in Washington D.C. is controlled by the District Lottery, which was established in 1982. The District of Columbia doesn’t have any land-based casinos, racetracks, or poker rooms. Thus, local gambling enthusiasts have to travel to Maryland, West Virginia, or New Jersey if they aren’t satisfied with charity bingo, draw games, scratchers, and keno. The D.C. Council has recently legalized sports betting, which is expected to go live in Fall 2019.

Washington D.C. (District of Columbia) Gambling Law Summary

D.C. Code defines gambling as “playing any game of chance for money or property.” While this definition is broad enough to cover online games, it does leave some wiggle room for fantasy sports companies, which maintain that the contests they offer are based on skill rather than chance. Nevertheless, D.C.-based gambling enthusiasts would be ill-advised to push their luck, as engaging in unlawful gambling as a player is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail.

Gambling in D.C. is covered by D.C. Code, section 22-1701 et seq. Recovery of gambling losses is covered in section 16-1702. The minimum gambling age is 18.

  Allowed Notes
Land-Based Gambling No Sports betting is coming soon
Online Gambling No
Lottery Yes
Charitable Gaming Yes Bingo only
Minimum Gambling Age 18 for bingo and lottery games

Washington D.C. Casinos

D.C. businesses are not permitted to offer casino games in any shape or form. The closest legal substitute is Tap-N-Play video lottery terminals, which can be described as electronic scratchers. Such terminals can be found in select D.C. Lottery agent locations.

Online options are limited to social casino sites, such as Slotomania and MyVegas. The latter platform is probably better suited for serious gamblers, as it allows the players to win points that can be redeemed for comps in MGM casinos in Maryland and New Jersey.

Washington D.C. Poker

Poker advocates tend to argue that competitive poker variants should be classified as games of skill, but unfortunately, D.C. authorities consider them to be games of chance. Consequently, Hold ’em and Omaha have the same legal status as slots, which makes them illegal across the entire district. Thus, local poker enthusiasts have no choice but to travel to Baltimore or Atlantic City to pursue their hobby.

Online poker was briefly legalized in April 2011, but the city council repealed the new regulations in February 2012. As it stands right now, playing online poker for money in D.C. is classified as unlawful gambling and constitutes a misdemeanor.

Washington D.C. Sports Betting

In December 2018, D.C. lawmakers passed the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act, which authorized land-based and online sports betting within District lines. District Lottery will issue all sports betting licenses, and betting shops will be divided into two categories. Class A facilities will be located inside four major sports venues: the Capital One Arena, Audi Field, Nationals Park, and St. Elizabeth’s East Entertainment and Sports Arena. These venues will be surrounded by two-block exclusivity zones, which means that they won’t face any direct competition. Class B facilities will operate under the same rules, but won’t get any exclusivity deals. As mentioned above, the first D.C. sportsbooks are expected to launch in Fall 2019.

Horse and dog race betting is prohibited in D.C. This also applies to online pari-mutuel platforms, such as TwinSpires or TVG.

Washington D.C. Daily Fantasy Sports

The D.C. Council has not yet regulated paid-entry DFS contests, and with national attention shifting to sports betting, the odds are high that this won’t change in the foreseeable future. Despite the lack of a legal framework, DFS operators offer their services to D.C. residents, claiming that the games they offer are entirely skill-based, and thus, don’t meet the definition of gambling as outlined in D.C. Code. D.C. authorities haven’t challenged this claim so far, and since the general public does not consider fantasy sports to be a problem, companies like FanDuel and DraftKings have no reason to withdraw from the D.C. market.

Washington D.C. Lotteries

D.C. Lottery offers a wide range of draw games, including popular multi-state options, such as Powerball, Mega Millions, and Lucky for Life. Other lottery products include scratchers, D.C. Keno, Tap-N-Play, Fast Play games, and a simulated horse racing game called Race2Riches.

The D.C. Council authorized the Lottery to sell tickets over the internet when it legalized online poker in 2011. Still, the relevant provisions were repealed, along with the other internet gambling regulations in 2012. Under the current rules, all tickets must be purchased from licensed land-based retailers.

Washington D.C. Bingo

Charity organizations can host bingo games under the supervision of the District Lottery; commercial bingo is illegal. This prohibition also applies to internet games.

Washington D.C. Online Gambling FAQ

What types of gambling are available in D.C.?

Regulated gambling in D.C. is limited to lottery games, as well as charitable bingo, casino nights, and raffles. Sports betting is expected to become available by the end of 2019.

What laws cover online gambling in D.C.?

The D.C. Code covers Gambling-related matters, sections 16-1702 and 22-1701 et seq.

Is real money online gambling legal in D.C.?

Online gambling is currently illegal in D.C., although the new sports betting bill contains provisions for internet betting.

Does Washington D.C. offer any intrastate online gambling?

D.C. companies are prohibited from operating online gambling sites. The District Lottery is expected to launch online sports betting service by the end of 2019.

Is it likely for D.C. to regulate online gambling?

The D.C. Council has already passed online sports betting regulations. Other forms of internet gambling are pretty much guaranteed to remain illegal.

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