Commanders’ Possible DC Return Would Shake Up Sports Betting Lineup

Commanders-DC-stadium-Fanatics

The collective rejoicing over Daniel Snyder’s potential sale of the Washington Commanders had barely subsided in and around the nation’s capital when fans of the storied franchise dared to dream again: that the team that had won three Super Bowls in 36 seasons in RFK Stadium could repatriate DC after being taken to the Maryland countryside in 1997.

FedEx Field was an infrastructural and architectural blight from the beginning. Now it’s deemed one of the NFL’s very worst stadiums.

What if the Commanders came home when their FedEx Field lease expires after the 2027 season? Hearts would glow.

And the landscape of DC sports betting would likely have to change. First, though, there would need to be some retrofitting of the District’s sports betting laws.

Currently, sports betting code there allows for the Lottery-run GamebetDC, which is available throughout most of the 68-square-mile jurisdiction, and four sports venues partnered with commercial sportsbooks offering retail wagering and mobile betting within a small geo-fenced area.

The DC City Council could shut the Commanders out of the bounty of a so-called ‘Class A’ license by maintaining the status quo, but it stands to reason that possible new owner Josh Harris — if a preliminary agreement is finalized with Snyder, and NFL owners approve the bid — would seek an equal footing with his new pro sports peers.

Gaming Today is seeking comment from the DC Lottery and the Department of Small and Local Business Development on the procedures for accommodating another pro team’s sports betting operation.

DC Sports Venues Holding ‘Class A’ Betting Licenses

These partnerships exist within the current sports betting structure in Washington, DC.

  • Audi Field, DC United: The MLS team has a deal with FanDuel.
  • Capital One Arena, Wizards (NBA), and Capitals (NHL): Caesars opened North America’s first in-venue sportsbook there in 2021.
  • St. Elizabeth’s East Entertainment and Sports Arena, Mystics (WNBA): Not yet acted upon.
  • Nationals Park, Nationals (MLB): BetMGM launched mobile in 2021 and opened a physical sportsbook adjacent to the park in 2022.

DC-sports-betting-exclusion-zones

Coincidentally, the Commanders have a sports betting partnership in Maryland with Fanatics, whose CEO, Michael Rubin, co-owned part of the Philadelphia 76ers with Harris through Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment. Rubin divested in the team to conform with NBA ownership rules governing connections to gambling companies.

In February, Fanatics’ retail shop at FedEx Field became the first sportsbook in an NFL stadium. The company is still undertaking a lengthy beta test before launching its first online betting app in Tennessee. A Fanatics spokesperson declined to speculate on a possible DC entry.

DC Would Need To Make Room for Another ‘Class A’ Outlet

There’s plenty of time to work this out. RFK Stadium has been fallow since the United left in 2018, and the NFL’s two newest stadiums — Allegiant in Las Vegas and SoFi in Los Angeles — took 2 1/2 and four years to construct, respectively.

Also, according to DC law, the ‘Class A’ licenses assigned to sports venues must be renewed every five years. The rules don’t currently contain language about expanding the number of licenses or whether a team such as the Commanders could buy an existing license, possibly the one the Mystics aren’t currently utilizing.

Mayor, NFL Want Commanders Back in District

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke last week of the Commanders franchise “when it comes home to Washington, D.C.” The NFL is on board, too, with commissioner Roger Goodell telling her earlier that the league supported the attempt to obtain the venue from the federal government, according to the Washington Post.

The 190 acre-parcel on RFK Stadium sits is owned by the Department of the Interior but is leased to Events DC through 2036.

The DC City Council opposed a stadium plan for the site as of January.

Snyder had hoped to build a $3 billion dome in Northern Virginia, with up to $1 billion in public funding, but a succession of scandals scuttled that idea. Maryland officials were equally reticent. Sports betting is legal and underway in both mobile and retail forms in both states.

About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Senior Writer
Brant James is a senior writer who covers the sports betting industry and legislation at Gaming Today. An alum of the Tampa Bay Times, ESPN.com, espnW, SI.com, and USA Today, he's covered motorsports and the NHL as beats. He also once made a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and rode to the top of Mt. Washington with Travis Pastrana. John Tortorella has yelled at him numerous times.

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