WASHINGTON — One of the sponsors of a bill allowing for sports betting in D.C. said that he has the numbers to advance it to the next step.
D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, a Democrat who represents Ward 2, said that he is “very confident” he has the seven votes needed to advance the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act. Six council members, including Evans, introduced the bill in September; and Evans told WTOP that council chairman Phil Mendelson would be supportive, making it seven.
Under the bill, sports wagering establishments with a valid license would pay D.C. 10 percent of the gross revenue generated by sports wagering.
Evans said that he did not know if that number would stay the same or change, as no one really knows the exact amount of money involved in underground gambling. “It’s uncharted territory,” Evans said. “I’m using the best information I have.”
Evans also said there’s opportunities for jurisdictions to capitalize on betting, as it is “pervasive in our society.”
“Probably the most well-known is March Madness. Every office has a pool,” Evans said.
He said that sports wagering is a market that could work for D.C. because it has venues and major sports facilities, and a lot of other hotels and restaurants that have shown interest.
If Evans and other members of the D.C. Council have their way, sports wagering could be as simple as opening an app or walking into a District hotel, bar or sports venue.
Betting is happening now underground, and Evans said that D.C. has an opportunity to get in front of it.
“It’s available. To say if we don’t have it in the District, then District residents are protected (from excessive gambling), and they won’t have the opportunity to gamble is silliness,” Evans said, adding that D.C. residents can go to the casino at MGM National Harbor in nearby Prince George’s County.
“Gambling is here. The argument that people who might gamble too much may be hurt is no longer valid because the opportunity to gamble is here,” Evans said.
The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that 2 million adults in the United States meet the criteria for pathological gambling — someone who is unable to resist impulses to gamble; and 4-6 million would be considered problem gamblers — those whose gambling behavior patterns compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits.
He would like revenue gained from sports betting to be used for early childhood development and the arts.
A public hearing on the bill will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 17.
Last May, the Supreme Court cleared the way for states coast to coast to legalize betting on sports, breaking a longtime ban and creating a potential financial boon for states and the gambling industry.
WTOP’s Liz Anderson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.