District of Columbia Real Money Gambling Online

The District of Columbia is still waiting to get its first casino, but their lottery retailers also feature the next generation of slot machines, where you can play slots and a whole lot more for up to $20 a spin. Considering how many lottery retailers there are in DC, this truly does bring real money slots to the people. Those who prefer playing slots online have even easier access to it, as they do with poker and sports betting, and it’s just a matter of knowing where.

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Washington DC Online Gambling – An Overview

While Washington DC was set up to house the federal government, it also houses over 700,000 residents these days, and is larger in population than both the states of Vermont and Wyoming, in spite of being so tiny in area. Residents do like to gamble generally, and while the district was held back by a federal government that took a dim view of real money gambling up until lately, things have really loosened up in recent years.

Once the District of Columbia got their first commercial gambling in 1982, the DC Lottery, the district used this as a springboard to add a pretty nice variety of gambling options for a lottery, which was expanded throughout the years, including the big leap that they are currently in the process of completing.

People not that familiar with the district tend to think that there isn’t a whole lot to gamble on in Washington DC, but appearances can often be deceiving. The district is actually quite a hotbed of gambling when you take a closer look, which you will discover as you read on.

History of Gambling in Washington DC

Washington DC Online Casinos and GamblingIn 1801, the federal government appropriated 100 square miles from the states of Maryland and Virginia, at a point where they meet, to create the federal District of Columbia. It was created to be independent of the powers of a state, to not have the national capital beholding to one.

The District of Columbia, widely known as just DC, as in Washington, DC, is federally controlled, and has a council that is given federal power to make laws. This is separate from the municipal law of the city of Washington, even though Washington and the District of Columbia occupy the exact same space on the map.

Federal law does not deal with the powers that the states have, so it’s not that DC can function with just federal law, nor can it just rely on municipal power as this does not have the power of what is normally state law, including criminal law that gambling finds itself under.

The District of Columbia has spent much of its time without any legal gambling whatsoever, from 1801 to 1981 to be exact, 180 years. It took then this long to approve charitable gambling, and various forms of it can be offered, including casino nights and charitable poker tournaments, providing a license is obtained from the district.

The task of issuing licenses for charitable gambling was given to the DC Lottery the very next year, the year that it was born. All DC has right now is charitable gaming and whatever the lottery offers, although what the lottery offers is considerably more than you see with your run of the mill lottery.

Among the things that the lottery offers beyond the normal tickets are online “e-instant games,” which look suspiciously like online slots. They also offer online sports betting, the real thing, which is accessible through their app. Washington DC does not have any casinos or racetracks or any physical locations that you could place a bet at currently, but they are in the process of issuing several licenses where you can place bets through various locations in the district.

Don’t let the 180 years of no legal gambling fool you, as DC has been pretty progressive toward gambling for quite a while now. In 2011, the DC Lottery came very close to offering online gambling, which would have made them the first jurisdiction in the country to do so, but this was scuttled at the last minute.

Washington DC may not have any land-based gambling, beyond the lottery and charitable gambling, but they have finally set their sites on the online world and the project is now well underway.

Washington DC Key Facts

  • Abbreviation: DC
  • State Motto: Justitia Omnibus (Justice for All)
  • Anthem: “Our Nation’s Capital”
  • Population Estimate: 705,749 (Federal capital city & federal district)
  • Website: dc.gov

Washington DC Gambling Laws

Washington DC relies on a combination of banning gambling devices with making betting on sporting events against the law to achieve its aims, which do appear to have the objective of banning all gambling entirely.

The part targeted toward sports betting in the District of Columbia’s gambling law achieves its purpose very well. Among the prohibited activities is placing a bet or wager upon “the result of an athletic contest.”

This also includes betting on yourself, as a participant in an athletic contest, so there aren’t even any exemptions for this as there are in many states that prohibit sports betting generally. It did forget to include betting on other events such as elections or other miscellaneous things you can wager on, but sports betting definitely involves betting on athletic events.

This includes athletic events of all manners, including ones where only animals compete. The law provides several examples of these contests, and horse and dog racing merit a specific mention. There is no doubt whatsoever that betting on any sporting contest is against the law in Washington DC.

Jurisdictions seek to make a certain form of gambling illegal to not only prevent it but also to regulate it, whereby it later becomes legal under the conditions and oversight of the state. This is exactly what Washington DC did when they legalized sports betting in 2018, under certain conditions, the ones they prefer.

The District of Columbia’s reliance on devices to define the scope of their prohibition with games that involve an element of chance, poker and casino games in other words, isn’t the best way to approach this, even in the days or yore that this part of the law was written.

DC gives this away when they list examples of gambling games that include such things as ABC, faro bank, EO, equality, thimbles, and little joker. It’s been quite some time since people bet money on any of these things, and are from so long ago that no one really knows anything about any of these games anymore, let alone play them.

The law certainly isn’t exclusively aimed at these games, or any game in particular, as this also includes “any kind of gaming table or gaming device adapted, devised, and designed for the purpose of playing any game of chance for money or property.” That’s the substance of the law, where the examples, which also includes the current games of roulette and keno, do not serve to add further meaning to the law.

There is a certain level of cloudiness that arises when gambling law depends on devices to define illegal gambling, anywhere from thinking that something like this bans all games of chance period, to those who may be left wondering what the law really says about certain forms like online gambling.

The biggest mistake in this approach is that it leaves online gambling aside from online sports betting completely out, where there isn’t even the need to do any speculation beyond applying the law to the practice. While devices are used to gamble online, they are not devised for the purpose of gambling and this is required in order for something to qualify as a gambling device.

Devices must be “adapted, devised, and designed” for the purpose of betting on games of chance, where we need all three elements present, and computers and mobile devices just don’t fit at all. While someone may argue that they have been adapted for gambling, if we want to call visiting a website adapting, they are neither devised nor designed for gambling.

The problems with device-based gambling laws runs deeper than this though. There’s no question that roulette tables, blackjack tables, craps tables, video poker tables, and every other kind of casino table game are specifically set up for these games.

Some of the devices used, like a roulette or other wheel, could be understood as gambling devices, but a deck of cards or a pair of dice would not, as they have other purposes besides being used to settle real money wagers of some sort on them.

In theory, casinos could set out plain tables offering all manners of gambling involving card playing, and even roll out craps at these tables, and none of this would be against the law in Washington DC. No one will be trying this because this is at least close enough to just have the tables deemed gambling tables anyway, and this doesn’t really matter anyway because you’d still need a license to offer these things commercially.

This sort of thing may matter as far as social gambling goes, an unraked poker game at someone’s kitchen table, which would be a bigger stretch to call a gambling table than one that is not designed for gambling but is exclusively used for it. Kitchen tables also get a wide variety of usage besides being makeshift poker tables.

In practice, the only land-based gambling that may be relied on to be legal is these home games, and we do know that the law here does intend to prohibit both the ABC tables of yesteryear and today’s blackjack tables, and everything in between, and this is more a matter of your being far less likely to be charged with social gambling than daring to open up a casino of any sort and not expect the authorities to swoop down upon you.

The District of Columbia at least finally has legal online gambling after legalizing sports betting, which is at least a start.

Land-Based Gambling in Washington DC

There are areas that have less land-based gambling than DC, in fact some have none at all. Some states do not have any gambling of any form, and DC only having lottery retailers and charitable gambling as far as the extent of land-based gambling here goes doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a whole lot more than nothing.

The DC Lottery is far from your average lottery though, and with the lottery being the only game in town as far as commercial gambling goes, it is pretty popular here and there are a lot of lottery retailers in this very small district, and many of them offer more than just your traditional lottery tickets.

DC Lottery retailers offer what they call self-service terminals, where patrons can play various games, including slot games, video bingo and keno, card games, dice games, real money video pool, and more. These are not only slot machines, as they could be considered the next generation of them, where the ones that you find in casinos need to advance before they catch up to the DC Lottery’s.

These games have limits from $1 to $20 a pop, and at the higher limits, the sheer speed of some of these games can have you wagering a whole lot of money in a pretty short period of time. If you can just go down the street and gamble at things like this, this is a long way away from having very little land-based gambling, as appears to be the case at first glance when you hear just the lottery and charitable gambling and think that’s not much.

The DC Lottery also offers regular keno drawings, a horse racing themed lottery game called Race to Riches, a number of local lottery games including pick 2, pick 3, pick 4, and pick 5, Powerball and Mega Millions, in addition to their online offerings, iLottery where you can both buy lottery tickets and play electronic games online, and their newest offering, online sports betting.

For those in Washington DC who crave land-based casinos and racetracks, there is plenty of both within a short drive of the district. There is plenty of organized charitable gambling going on in DC though, for those who wish to do their gambling without leaving it, and all of the popular charitable games are available, including bingo, raffles, casino games, and real money live poker.

The DC lottery actively promotes charitable gambling in the district. While charitable gambling is usually pretty much left to its own, with perhaps a license being required, DC takes this all very seriously, and regulates this gambling just like they would with casinos, ensuring everything is fair and honest and players receive the full amount of their winnings.

Washington DC is also getting ready to see land-based sports betting outlets open up, where you can walk up to place bets. It’s hard to imagine why this is needed at all these days, with just about everyone having access to the internet, but perhaps DC doesn’t want to have those who do not have internet access but want to bet on sports left out of the party.

DC actually has quite a bit of real money gambling packed into this little postage stamp on the map, and this might be the best way that they could set this up, placing what amounts to genuine casino gambling within walking distance of everyone.

Washington DC Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

The District of Columbia has been at the forefront of U.S. regulated online gambling ever since the topic first came up. DC was actually at the very front of the line when this opened up, and back in 2011 when they first sought to make this happen, there was considerably more uncertainty as far as how existing law may apply, especially in DC which has a unique legal landscape.

DC’s first attempt at this failed to pass because Congress said no, and the U.S. Congress isn’t just located within the District of Columbia, it is also the big boss of the district. This is not about separation of powers like you see in questions of jurisdiction between federal and state governments, as DC is purely federally governed, and the feds get the last word.

DC decided to abandon its quest for full-fledged online gambling and settled for integrating some in its lottery. The attitude of Congress will need to change before they allow such a thing, but if you can offer the lottery, you can presumably offer an I-lottery as well, even though the games may not look very much like anything we could call a lottery.

The next change in DC’s real money gambling landscape came in 2015, where some decided that since fantasy sports betting isn’t against the law because it is a game of skill, they decided to set up shop in the district. Amusingly, DC law makes no distinctions with games of skill, or otherwise authorizes this sort of gambling, and the question of whether or not fantasy sports contestants are actually betting or instead paying entry fees to enter contests is where the real debate lies. No one is standing in the way though, and that’s what always matters.

Washington DC snuck online casino gambling in through the back door we could say, and while there are other states that call their real money online casino gambling by nicer sounding names, this was perhaps even more important in DC, where they certainly needed to avoid the ire of Congress by promoting this as online casino gaming.

State regulated online gambling in the U.S. became popular once states could geo-limit access to these games, otherwise anyone in the world could play on them, including people in other states that do not allow such a thing. Operators would be delighted to have players from all corners of the Earth, as this would drive business more, and geolocated gambling is about not stepping on the toes of other states in the union.

The devices we use to gamble online also transmit their location on the map, a technology that is widely used with cell phones. Whether you are using a phone or a computer, the DC Lottery knows where you are when you gamble with them, and insists that you be physically located in DC to play.

The DC Lottery has recently added real money sports betting to their repertoire of online gambling, and there aren’t very many states that have it any better than both being able to play real money online slots and other online gambling games and bet on sports as well from anywhere in the district.

2018 was the year that the federal legislation attempting to prohibit most states from offering sports betting was struck down, and this ended up allowing Washington DC to pass through the front door with their sports betting approval, which they are now about to roll out to licensed physical locations as well.

It is not that the lottery’s online gambling quite stacks up to the real thing, and doesn’t offer the opportunity to play online poker at all. The DC Lottery is but one option on the internet among many, places that allow you to gamble on whatever you want online and don’t care if you are in DC or anywhere else in the world.

Some speculate as to whether real money online gambling outside of what the DC Lottery offers is legal or not, and while a careful reading of the law makes it pretty clear that online casino and poker are outside its scope, and the district already has online sports betting, none of this really matters from a practical standpoint as the internet is really outside the purview of the law.

Whether online gambling is deemed to be legal or not in DC, not only is the district’s gambling law not enforced against online gambling, there’s just no way that they even could, as bad as they may wish to. Geolocating can tell them where you are while you are on their sites, but elsewhere on the internet, they are left blind to whether you are gambling with real money online or not.

See also
Future of Gambling in Washington DC

While DC lacks either genuine online casino and poker games or any locations in the district that offer either, at least the non-charitable kind, Washington DC is actually quite well served already without any further improvements.

It’s not that DC could not support an actual casino or two, or commercial poker rooms, but these things exist to segregate gambling to these particular locations. The need for this is far less when gambling is not segregated, like it isn’t in DC.

Washington DC’s regulated charitable gambling has a pretty nice reach, and allow pretty easy access to both traditional table games and poker, among other types. This is not real casino gaming by any means with their Monte Carlo nights, nor is the live poker comparable to commercial poker rooms, but they are a whole lot closer than not having any of this at all.

Everything in DC gambling-wise is connected to the lottery, but it’s hard to imagine poker and blackjack tables at lottery retailers. They do have casino gambling as well though with their electronic gaming machines.

The District of Columbia needs to get the approval of Congress before they could offer actual casinos, which remains the big challenge in getting the district’s gambling scene fully open, or even more open than it currently is. The necessary step when it comes to land-based gambling is letting commercial operations be granted licenses and regulated like the charities are, which would bring this sort of gambling more up to scale with the demand.

The same challenge remains with DC looking to open up their online gambling more, and it isn’t even a matter of their needing to want this. Congress said no to poker and casino in 2011, and DC will have to wait until Congress is ready to say yes before they can move ahead.

Meanwhile, people can drive to nearby casinos if they wish, and there is plenty within easy driving distance. As far as waiting for more progress with real money gaming in DC, the door to this has always been open to players, where they just choose to do it as they always have with nothing to stop them and no one to catch them.

For those who wish to enjoy the best that the world has to offer when it comes to real money online gambling, we are ready to show you the best sites out there based upon our expert analysis, which you are free to try out to your heart’s desire.

Washington DC Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • What is the difference between Washington and DC?

    There are three main levels of government in the United States, which are federal, municipal, and regional. All U.S. cities have references to the region that they are in which are followed by a two digit code, and the national capital is no exception. The city of Washington and the District of Columbia are located in the exact same space, where the difference between them is that the city provides municipal governance and DC provides a regional government.

  • Who makes the gambling laws in Washington DC?

    Both states and the federal government get the power to make laws by way of provisions in the U.S. constitution. The power of the federal government is limited by this and much of this power is given over to individual states. Gambling law is one of the things that the states control, and neither the city of Washington nor the federal government can make such laws. DC serves this regional lawmaking role and makes certain laws under the oversight of Congress.

  • Why couldn’t Congress just make all the laws in Washington DC?

    Congress does not have the constitutional authority to make certain laws, including what is deemed intrastate commerce, which includes regional gambling laws. The laws of Congress apply to the entire country, and if they made gambling illegal, it would have to apply to the whole country, as all federal law does, although they don’t have this power. They get around this by having a district council, DC, make these laws under their oversight.

  • What does District of Columbia law say about gambling?

    DC at least attempted to create law that sought to ban all commercial gambling, although like in some states, they didn’t quite successfully achieve this. Sports betting is clearly illegal, even though it has been made legal since. Certain types of casino games, ones deemed to be played at “gaming tables,” are clearly illegal as well, although the law here limits itself more than the lawmakers probably intended by relying on such an approach.

  • How does DC law miss completely on real money online poker and casino gambling?

    The District of Columbia’s gambling law was written back in the 19th century, and the part that refers to poker and casino gambling remains in its original text. For poker and casino games to be illegal, they have to be played on a table designed specifically for this purpose, like a blackjack or roulette table would. Computers and mobile devices are definitely not specifically designed for gambling, although the authors of this law could not have contemplated their existence.

  • What land-based gambling options does Washington DC have?

    There are only two ways to gamble at physical locations in DC, either at one of their many lottery retailers or at a licensed charitable gambling event. While these charitable events offer a wide variety of gambling, including the usual bingo and raffles as well as more popular forms such as real casino table games and live real money poker, their footprint remains pretty small overall. The DC lottery’s footprint is not so small though.

  • How does the DC Lottery differ from traditional lotteries?

    All lotteries offer lottery tickets, with all offering regional draws and the great majority of them also allowing access to interstate lottery games like Powerball and Mega Millions. Most also offer instant scratch tickets. The DC Lottery has all of this and much more. You can not only purchase all of this at lottery retailers in Washington DC, many also have video terminals where you can play slots and much more for up to $20 per “instant game.”

  • Does the District of Columbia also offer online gambling?

    DC was the first region to seek to legalize online gambling, although Congress ended up stepping up to quash the idea. The DC Lottery ended up stepping up to offer not only the ability to buy lottery tickets online, they also started to offer what were called electronic lottery games, as difficult as it might be to consider things like real money electronic slots, dice games, card games, and others as having much to do with a lottery.

  • Does the District of Columbia offer sports betting yet?

    DC did not waste any time legalizing sports betting once the opportunity became available in 2018 after the striking down of a federal law that prohibited it in almost all states. Congress could still have said no to DC getting this, but they went ahead and allowed it. The DC lottery now offers online sports betting, and the district is in the process of issuing licenses for land-based operations to offer it as well.

  • Can residents of DC gamble online apart from the DC Lottery sites?

    As popular as the DC Lottery may be, they certainly are not the only option that DC residents have if they wish to gamble online. The lottery’s offerings are the only form that has been authorized by the District of Columbia to date, but there are lots of places located elsewhere that have approved it. The internet provides players the means to travel there instantly. We can show you where the best sites are that accept players from DC.


Chief Editor: Mike leverages his true passion for online gambling to create a uniquely informative site that takes players well beyond the standard fare in the industry.