Placing sports bets in and around the nation’s capital presents a unique situation.
The sports betting options in Washington, D.C., are either GambetDC, a much-maligned sports betting app run by the D.C. Lottery, or a pair of national sportsbooks tied to small geographic slices of the city. BetMGM is available within a two-block radius of Nationals Park, and Caesars can be used within a two-block radius of Capital One Arena.
Other options include traveling to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Maryland currently only offers retail wagering at five casinos. More retail locations will launch sports betting in the coming months, but Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia offer legal mobile sports betting.
For someone in the “DMV,” there are options to legally bet on sports, but most of those currently come with some noteworthy drawbacks that make the experience less than perfect.
Is GambetDC a viable option?
GambetDC, the lottery sports betting app, doesn’t come well recommended. From user issues when registering for the app to poor odds to technical issues, GambetDC users have had a lengthy list of complaints.
The iOS app didn’t even work during the Super Bowl, going out for users because the mobile app provider didn’t receive an update approval from Apple. Understandably, some customers were angry about not being able to wager during the big game.
Justice that DC which created the worst sport betting app of all time has crashed for the biggest day of sport betting. Hopefully this will be a wake up call for dc government pic.twitter.com/WtIDwaubq4
— Scott Sloofman (@ScottSloofman) February 14, 2022
“I’ve used Gambet for a little over a year, but it is just terrible and I can’t take it anymore,” one user posted in a review in the App Store in mid-February. “The app crashing on Super Bowl Sunday and the $10 free bet for the inconvenience was a total miss by them, and it was the last straw for me. I tried using the free $10 bet when the app came back online, but turns out you could only use it on the day of the crash.”
Having recently moved to the Maryland/Washington D.C. border, I tried GambetDC over the last couple weeks. The registration process was a bit clunky — it took multiple attempts to have my identity verified — but after ultimately being approved I was able to place a few wagers. The odds are often worse than at major national sportsbooks: Spreads may be listed with -112, -115, or -120 odds instead of the typical -110, and the interface has a few minor inconveniences.
If using DraftKings or FanDuel elsewhere and betting a college basketball game, you see the spread, total, and moneyline all on one screen. At GambetDC, you need to click into another window to make a moneyline wager. It’s easy to navigate to various sports and bets using DraftKings or FanDuel, while the GambetDC iOS app isn’t as user-friendly.
While minor interface inconveniences aren’t the end of the world, they add up if you’re using the platform frequently. In recreational betting, the goal is to have fun. Struggling to navigate an app with semi-frequent technical glitches and subpar odds isn’t many people’s definition of recreation.
Add in a lack of promotions/odds boosts compared to national operators, and it’s easy to see why some D.C. sports bettors come away frustrated after using GambetDC. Sharp bettors, meanwhile, likely scoff at the thought of using GambetDC.
— Sam McQuillan (@sam_mcquill) February 25, 2022
BetMGM and Caesars limited in D.C.
While BetMGM and Caesars are both available in D.C., each app is limited to a two-block radius in the District. If you live near Capital One Arena (Caesars) or Nats Park (BetMGM), the options are ideal.
Each stadium also includes a retail sportsbook in or near the stadium, giving users an opportunity to enjoy a sports bar along with betting at professional sports venues. I recently visited the BetMGM Sportsbook at Nats Park, and it figures to be an especially popular location whenever the MLB season actually starts. You can also use the apps when watching games at Capital One Arena or Nats Park, enabling wagers on various sports while watching events.
Went this weekend, it will be interesting to see if there is incentive to visit the brick and mortar to place a bet instead of just using the app which works all around the park.
— ShaboomsDC (@ShaboomsDC) January 31, 2022
“I think limiting consumer choice in the District will continue to have an impact and be restrictive on what they’re going to see in terms of handle numbers,” American Gaming Association Senior Vice President of Strategic Communications Casey Clark said. “It gives the benefit to people who have in-person books.”
If traveling to either sports venue is a burden or using GambetDC doesn’t meet your needs, leaving D.C. is a viable option.
Maryland slow on mobile launch
Maryland is moving slowly toward its mobile launch, with the expectation among some industry sources that Marylanders will have access to mobile betting by the start of the NFL season in late summer. It’s unclear if that target date will be hit, but it’s evident the state will lack legal mobile betting options for at least the next few months, including March Madness.
Would be ideal for Maryland to have mobile betting on a day like today…
— Coach Fast (@MikeFastNFL) February 13, 2022
“What we know is happening is that currently people in Maryland are betting on sports on their mobile devices — they’re just only able to access the illegal market,” Clark said. “When that’s the only option, there are no protections for consumers, there’s no protection for the competition or the athletes, or the bets, or anything in between. What I’m hopeful about in Maryland … is we’re going to give American adults who want to bet on sports a safer option to do that.”
There are currently five casinos in the state that offer retail sports betting, and a few more locations are in the pipeline to launch retail wagering. Those at least provide legal options in the state, although driving to either Virginia or Pennsylvania for legal mobile betting may be a preferred alternative for some bettors.
As Clark mentioned, using illegal offshore options also present themselves as options currently. The hope among industry professionals is that Maryland will soon launch its mobile sports betting and attract customers to legal sportsbooks.
As the law allows the state up to 60 licenses, expect a diverse pool of mobile and retail sportsbook operators in the coming years, potentially making Maryland one of the more optimal states for legal sports betting.
Virginia offers mobile options
Virginia offers mobile sports betting options, and a handful of venues are expected to launch retail wagering in the near future. The state has licensed multiple well-known mobile sportsbooks to offer wagering platforms, including Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel, among others.
One drawback of Virginia’s sports betting options is that there are die-hard fans of Virginia colleges and universities who can’t legally bet on those teams. It’s illegal in Virginia to wager on in-state colleges, and that rule doesn’t seem likely to be changed by the legislature anytime soon.
Virginia legislators are keeping the Commonwealth’s ban on betting on in-state colleges. Virginians will have to travel across state lines to legally wager on UVA and Virginia Tech. https://t.co/PVZtyLEmfy
— Bennett Conlin (@BennettConlin) March 1, 2022
“I think that the suggestion or implication that Virginians aren’t betting on Virginia college sports is inaccurate,” Clark said. “We’re just not giving them access to do that legally. When you do that, you create a void that will continue to be filled by the illegal black market.”
One Virginia resident reached out to us via Twitter, mentioning that he’ll be in Washington, D.C., for the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament. VCU is one of the league’s top teams, and he’s ready to legally bet on the Rams — an NCAA Tournament bubble team — in D.C.
“I think what I’m most excited about for D.C. is being able to bet [Virginia] teams,” he said. “Betting on VCU and then going to the game should be exciting.”
Another Twitter user from Virginia told Sports Handle that they drive to Maryland casinos to place legal bets on Virginia colleges and universities. For many recreational bettors with ties to Virginia colleges, sports betting loses some of its luster when you can’t place bets on your favorite programs.
The bottom line
Virginia sportsbooks offer the best variety of mobile betting options in the DMV, while Maryland and D.C. both have decent retail wagering locations. D.C. has mobile sportsbook options available to users, but the platforms are either limited to a small geographic area (BetMGM and Caesars) or a subpar product (GambetDC).
So what’s the best option for sports betting in the DMV? Well, it depends on your specific situation. If you live in D.C. and want a basic sports betting option for occasional wagers, GambetDC is a possible option.
If you’re in the D.C. area and want to take advantage of consistently good promotions, respectable odds, and a top-tier interface, it might be worth the short trip to Virginia to use the commonwealth’s mobile betting options — so long as you’re not looking to bet on a school like Virginia, Virginia Tech, or VCU.
VCU is now 17-3 this season with Ace Baldwin in the lineup. https://t.co/g3COWw1sAn
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 2, 2022
Traveling to a Maryland casino is also an option for D.C. bettors, although less convenient than wagering on a mobile device in Virginia. For some Marylanders, a trip north to Pennsylvania for mobile betting options might be the best play until mobile finally launches in Maryland in late 2022.
The bottom line is that each legal sports betting option in the DMV presently comes with drawbacks. A mobile sports betting launch in Maryland will make the area more enjoyable for recreational bettors and could potentially add pressure to D.C. officials to make the District’s sports betting offerings more competitive.
“I think there’s clearly an appetite for people in the DMV who want to bet legally on sports, and we should be doing everything we can to give them access to that,” Clark said.