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Is lottery legal in Washington DC?

The lottery is a popular form of gambling in the United States, with nearly every state offering some form of lottery games. However, the legal status of lotteries varies between states and even within some states. Washington D.C. has had an interesting history when it comes to the legality of lotteries. Here is a quick overview of the current lottery laws in Washington D.C.:

Is lottery legal in Washington DC?

Yes, lotteries are legal in Washington D.C. The DC Lottery offers various lottery games to residents and visitors in the District.

History of Lottery Laws in Washington DC

While lotteries are currently legal in Washington D.C., this was not always the case. Here is a brief history of lottery laws in DC:

Year Lottery Legality
1964 DC Lottery established but later abolished after claims of corruption
1973 DC City Council legalizes lottery
1975 Congress bans lotteries in DC
1982 Congress allows DC to establish lottery if residents approve via referendum
1982 DC residents vote to approve lottery with 59% in favor
1983 New DC lottery begins operations

As the table shows, lotteries have gone back and forth between legal and illegal numerous times throughout DC’s history. It was not until 1982 when DC residents voted to approve the lottery that it was permanently established.

Key Events in DC Lottery History

Some key events and dates in the history of the DC lottery include:

– 1964: DC establishes a lottery but it is quickly abolished after claims of corruption.

– 1973: The DC City Council votes to legalize the lottery in the District.

– 1975: Congress intervenes by banning lotteries in DC through a budget rider.

– 1982: Congress passes a bill to allow DC to establish a lottery if approved via referendum by residents.

– 1982: DC residents vote 59% in favor of a lottery referendum, approving the creation of a new DC lottery.

– 1983: The new DC lottery begins operations on August 22, 1983.

This quick overview shows the winding road that led to the current era of legal lotteries in Washington DC. Some periods of prohibition were instituted by Congress while other periods saw lotteries approved through local laws and initiatives. The approval by residents in 1982 was critical for establishing the lottery permanently.

Current Status of DC Lottery

Today, the DC Lottery offers a wide range of lottery games and generates significant revenue for the District. Some key facts about the current DC Lottery:

  • Operated by the DC Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board.
  • Offers instant scratch tickets, draw games like Powerball, Mega Millions, and Lucky for Life.
  • Operates Keno and Fast Play games.
  • Generated over $273 million in revenue in FY 2022.
  • Proceeds go towards funding for DC public schools, public safety, healthcare programs, and more.
  • Residents and visitors age 18+ can play DC lottery games.

The DC Lottery has grown into a major operation, offering a wide selection of lottery products across the District. Sales from lottery games generate hundreds of millions in annual revenue for key public services and programs in DC.

DC Lottery Products

The DC Lottery offers a variety of different lottery games, including:

  • Instants – Scratch-off tickets with various price points and top prizes.
  • Draw Games – Jackpot-style games drawn multiple times per week like Powerball and Mega Millions.
  • Keno – Keno drawings every 4 minutes with potential to win up to $100,000.
  • Fast Play – Instant win-style printed tickets with games like Triple Tripler.
  • In-house Draw Games – DC-only draw games like Lucky for Life.

These lottery products offer various price points and prizes to players. Sales from instant scratch tickets and major multi-state draw games like Powerball account for large portions of DC Lottery revenue.

Requirements to Play DC Lottery

The requirements to legally play lottery games in Washington DC are straightforward:

  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • Must be physically located within Washington DC to purchase tickets or redeem prizes.
  • Online lottery ticket sales only available to DC residents who can prove DC residency.

The 18 years minimum age is standard across most US lotteries. Additionally, players must be physically in DC when purchasing tickets from authorized retailers. Online lottery sales are limited to verified DC residents only. Visitors and non-residents must purchase tickets in-person when in DC.

Overall, the requirements create a lottery that is limited to adults and mostly contained within the geographic boundaries of Washington DC.

Can You Buy Lottery Tickets Online in DC?

Yes, online lottery ticket sales are available in DC but only for verified DC residents. Visitors or residents of other states cannot purchase DC lottery tickets online.

To play the DC Lottery online, a player must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Create an account at
  • Provide proof of DC residency.

Once verified as a DC resident, lottery players can use the online portal to purchase tickets for draw games like Powerball as well as DC instant games. However, online sales are limited to DC residents specifically.

Non-residents and visitors must buy lottery tickets at authorized retailers when physically in DC. But DC residents have the convenience of purchasing lottery entries online.

Where to Buy DC Lottery Tickets

Assuming you meet the age and location requirements, there are a few ways to purchase DC Lottery tickets:

In-Person at Retailers

Over 225 retailers across DC sell lottery tickets at counters and kiosks. Common retailer locations include:

  • Liquor stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • corner stores

Look for the bright blue DC Lottery logo at participating retailers. Players can use cash or debit cards to purchase lottery tickets in person.


DC residents who create an account on can purchase tickets online for draw games and instant games. Online ticket sales are limited to DC residents only after providing proof of residency.

Mobile App

The DC Lottery also offers a mobile app for iOS and Android. Same requirements as online – must be a verified DC resident. The app allows checking tickets, scanning tickets, and purchasing lottery entries.

So in summary – anyone in DC can buy lottery tickets at hundreds of retailers. But online and mobile sales are limited to DC residents who register with valid proof of residency.

Can You Play DC Lottery Anonymously?

No, anonymous play is not allowed for the DC Lottery. Lottery players must provide certain personal information and identification for certain prizes:

  • Prizes over $600 require submitting a claim form with your SSN or EIN.
  • Jackpots over $5,000 require valid photo ID and a public claim ceremony.
  • Online play requires an account with your identity and residency verification.

While you can buy draw game tickets and lower tier instant prizes anonymously, major prizes require proof of identity. Lotteries obtain this information to verify winners and for tax reporting purposes.

Anonymity is certainly not an option for online lottery play in DC. You must provide extensive personal documentation to prove DC residency and identity.

In summary, smaller prizes allow anonymous claims but major jackpots and online play involve considerable documentation and loss of anonymity.

Prize Claim Requirements in DC

Here are the main requirements for claiming and redeeming DC Lottery prizes:

  • Prizes up to $600 can be claimed anonymously with just the winning ticket.
  • Prizes over $600 must submit a winner claim form with SSN or EIN for tax purposes.
  • Jackpots over $5,000 require submitting a claim form plus valid photo ID presented at a public press event.
  • Online winnings get automatically credited to your online account.

In summary, small prizes permit anonymous claims but major jackpots and online winnings involve documentation and identity verification. Anonymity is not an option for substantial DC Lottery prizes.

Lottery Proceeds in DC

One benefit of playing the legally approved DC Lottery is that proceeds go towards funding public programs and services in the District. By law, lottery proceeds in DC must go towards:

  • DC Public Schools
  • Public Safety
  • Healthcare Programs
  • Other educational, senior, and youth programs

In Fiscal Year 2022, the DC Lottery generated $273 million in revenue. Here is how those lottery proceeds were allocated:

Program FY 2022 Funding
DC Public Schools $130 million
Public Safety $55 million
Healthcare Programs $30 million
Other DC Programs $58 million

As shown, a significant portion of lottery revenue helps support DC public schools along with other public services in the District. When playing the DC Lottery, residents can feel good that the proceeds are giving back to the community.

Lottery Beneficiaries in DC

Some of the main beneficiary programs in DC funded by lottery revenue include:

– DC Public Schools – Received $130 million in FY 2022 to support school operations, supplies, teacher salaries, and educational initiatives.

– Metropolitan Police Department – MPD received over $25 million for new equipment, vehicles, training, community outreach, and officer overtime.

– DC Healthcare Finance – Medicaid, addiction treatment, mental health services, and other healthcare programs received $30 million in lottery funds.

– Workforce Development – Grants totaling $16 million helped support job training and adult education programs in DC.

As required by law, these key areas receive dedicated funding each year from the proceeds of DC Lottery games. This reliable stream of lottery funding helps DC provide vital public services to residents.

Lottery Responsibility

While playing the DC Lottery can be fun recreation and helps fund public causes, it’s important for players to gamble responsibly. Lotteries should be entertainment and not seen as a way to gain guaranteed wealth. Players should set a budget for lottery purchases that is reasonable for their income level. It’s also key for players to be aware of gambling addiction resources available in DC such as:

  • DC Lottery Responsible Gambling Hotline
  • The DC Center for Addiction Recovery
  • DC Department of Behavioral Health treatment services

The DC Lottery also promotes responsible play by placing responsible gambling messages at lottery retailers and providing information on odds of winning for each game.

Overall, the DC Lottery offers residents a fun chance to win prizes while providing hundreds of millions in annual funds for vital public services. But as with any form of gambling, players should exercise moderation and rationality when taking part.


In summary, lotteries are currently legal in Washington DC after going through periods of legal uncertainty throughout the city’s history. Today, DC operates a robust lottery that generates over $250 million per year to support public schools, public safety, healthcare, and more. DC residents and visitors over 18 can purchase lottery tickets at hundreds of retailers or online (DC residents only). While playing the lottery can be entertaining, it’s critical that players exercise responsible gambling practices and avoid problematic behavior. The DC Lottery has grown into an important institution that provides entertainment and valuable funding for community programs.