Washington DC has had a rather hostile relationship with gambling. Most forms are not legalized in DC, and the majority of gambling operations are still considered illegal. There’s a small choice of brick-and-mortar charity gambling options.
The lottery is another form of gambling that’s available but is also very limited. Things get even more complicated when it comes to online gambling.
If you’re interested in learning more about the gambling law that’s currently enforced in the Capital of America, this comprehensive guide will offer a detailed run-through.
First of all, we’ll cover some of the legal gambling forms, and then we’ll focus on reviewing significant legislative pieces related to the industry.
Finally, we’ll cover three land-based gambling venues that are popular among the residents of Washington DC. Please keep in mind that they are all located outside the city.
Although many legislators and organizations that support gambling legalization have been recently active in the city, not much has happened before that. Washington DC is one of those areas in the US where legalizing gambling had actually never been discussed in detail, so it remained one of the most conservative places in this regard.
The only thing that was actually popular was horse racing, as residents were allowed to make pari-mutuel on-track bets. As a matter of fact, the activity of gambling on horse racing is still legal. The only issue here is that DC residents don’t have any horse racing betting options as no racetracks are present in the area at the moment. However, there are a lot of opportunities in most of the states surrounding Washington DC.
When it comes to casinos, DC residents who want to have the full experience will have to go on a four-hour-drive to Atlantic City where they can enjoy plenty of options. If you don’t feel like traveling that far, you can always visit some of the smaller venues that operate in Maryland.
Simply put, there are no casinos either commercial or tribal that are currently available in Washington DC. The only time you can actually get to experience some gambling activities in the state is when there’s a charity event going on. These are usually fundraising events where you can take part in games such as bingo, raffles, or even Texas Hold’em tournaments. However, the majority of money is given to a charity, so the excitement isn’t quite the same as when playing games in a real casino.
The only thing that’s actually legal in DC is the lottery, and it’s been the case since 1982. DC citizens are allowed to buy instant scratch cards or choose numbers on electronic terminals. Moreover, they are free to take part in some lotteries that run in several states, such as PowerBall or Mega Millions.
Poker is also not a legal option in DC. The only way to take part in a big poker tournament is to apply for a charity event. Technically, you can take part in a social poker game that’s been classified as a home game, but it’s strictly against the law to host poker cash games or tournaments of any kind.
The legislators did not do much until recently when the idea of online gambling was put on the table again. After many other US states decided to legalize online casinos, some lawmakers in Washington saw an opportunity to fill the city’s coffers with additional tax money.
The first person to propose online gambling legalization was Michael A. Brown, the Council Member. He suggested opening an online casino that’s controlled by the state. In addition to that, Brown advocated opening approximately 30 hotspots for casino lovers.
The idea seemed lucrative to many other officials in Washington DC and so Brown’s plan was actually well received and made it pass the legislative process. However, the entire legislation saga was short-lived. Many people argued later that they had had no idea what they were voting for and slowly started to turn their heads away from the project.
Despite the initial support that showed some serious results, the idea was officially abandoned in 2012. The approach was pretty forward-thinking and revolutionary at the time, and it definitely made some waves that could result in online gambling legalization in the future. Until then, all gambling lovers are forced to go outside DC or take part in charity events.
As previously stated, it’s safe to say that Washington DC doesn’t really have a lot of important dates when it comes to its gambling history simply because it doesn’t have a gambling history.
Perhaps the most important year is 1981 when charity gaming guidelines were created for fundraising purposes, allowing bingo, raffles, Texas Hold’em tournaments, and some other casino events to take place in the city.
One year after that, the DC Lottery officially started operating.
Fast forward to 2010, Michael A. Brown suggested a somewhat revolutionary idea of legalizing online gambling that would be a great way to fix the city’s budget. One year after that, legislators are putting a lot of work into Brown’s idea, and the DC Lottery is just one step away from offering online gambling. However, the project was shut down not long after that.
In 2012, the Finance and Revenue Committee stated that the information about online gambling was not clear enough and that they were unaware of what they voted for.
To sum up what’s discussed above, it’s safe to say that no forms of gambling are legal in the US capital. This means that neither land-based nor online casinos, sportsbooks, poker rooms, racetracks are allowed to gamble on. You can legally take part only in licensed charity events, and that’s pretty much it.
The good news is that Washington DC is a small area surrounded by states that do offer land-based gambling options legally. In fact, you can reach some of them pretty quickly, so we made sure to select the three best options.
Let’s face it — some people living in Las Vegas need more time to reach their favorite casino than you need to reach MGM National Harbor that’s located in Maryland. It’s literally a 15 to 20-minute drive from DC.
The casino is rather new and comes with a lot of options to choose from, including 3,165 slots and 165 table games. This huge property also comes with a lot of great dining options, such as the Voltaggio Brothers Steak House.
The only downside to this casino is that some games require really high minimum bets, making them more suitable for high rollers, especially during the weekend. Therefore, if you’re a casual player, you might want to take other options into account.
Depending on where you are in DC, it would take you anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes to get to Live Casino & Hotel also located in Maryland. It’s a bit bigger MGM in terms of games you can play as it features more slots and bigger poker rooms. The best thing is that the minimum bets are much more affordable compared to MGM. The most popular dining option is the Cheesecake Factory.
Although Horseshoe Baltimore isn’t as good as Live or MGM in terms of casino games, it offers great horse racing betting options, which makes it stand out from the crowd. On top of that, it offers free parking and several great dining options, such as the two restaurants run by Guy Fieri. You’ll need approximately 45 minutes to get to Horseshoe.
Although it’s technically legal, there are no betting options in the city. You’ll have to leave DC if you want to place bets.
DC allows taking part in multi-state lottery games such as PowerBall and Mega Millions. There are several options that are available exclusively for DC residents as well.
Gambling is illegal in DC, so there are no land or water-based gambling venues anywhere in the area.
Gambling is illegal for all DC residents, but if you want to take part in charity gambling that’s organized from time to time, you need to be at least 18 years old.