D.C. Council Member Elissa Silverman is tired of Washington’s current sports betting system. Silverman, frustrated with the lack of success from GambetDC, has proposed a bill that would allow third-party mobile sportsbook operators to operate in the District. Council members Brooke Pinto, Mary Cheh, and Charles Allen co-introduced the bill.
BetMGM, Caesars, and FanDuel have retail sportsbooks in Washington, D.C., and BetMGM and Caesars can offer mobile wagering within a two-block zone around major sporting venues at which they have sportsbooks. But GambetDC is the only mobile sports betting platform that offers District-wide access, though it is not allowed within sports facilities and their exclusion zones or on federal land.
The lottery-run platform is powered by Intralot, which received a controversial sole-source contract in 2019 to run D.C.’s sports betting operation. The contract also gave Intralot the authority to manage the District’s online lottery program.
GambetDC has experienced numerous issues over the years, including poor odds, a bad interface, financial shortcomings, and technical glitches. GambetDC’s iOS app notably went out during the 2022 Super Bowl.
With all of this in mind, Silverman wants to open up the D.C. mobile sports wagering market.
“We need to turn the page on this embarrassing episode,” Silverman said in a press release. “Residents deserve an online app that works, taxpayers deserve a program that brings in money for the District, and we all deserve a system where we don’t hand huge contracts to a preferred company and its subcontractors without even looking at the competition.”
I'm between DC and VA a lot. The difference between FanDuel, BetMGM, and Gambet is stark, with the DC app coming out the worse in every comparison. With its more invasive geofencing requirements, its clunky interface, and poorer customer service, end the sweetheart deal.
— John (@xokkii) October 24, 2022
Silverman’s bill would allow third-party operators like BetMGM, Caesars, and FanDuel to offer mobile apps in Washington, D.C., by giving them “Class C” licenses. Those mobile operators would be subjected to a 15% tax rate on gross gaming revenue, which matches Maryland and Virginia. The operators would be able to offer their platforms throughout the city, but not on federal land or within a two-block radius of where a competitor’s stadium partner is located.
The bill doesn’t specify a limit to the number of mobile sports betting licenses that could be offered in D.C. Additionally, Silverman’s bill would terminate the existing contract with Intralot when it expires in 2024. Currently, there’s an option for D.C. to extend the contract another five years.
Silverman wants to require competitive bidding for future contracts with the D.C. Lottery. Intralot was awarded its contract without any competitive bidding process, and Silverman has long been disappointed in not only the District’s sports betting efforts, but also its handling of the lottery.
“The other thing we need to do is digitize our lottery and make it mobile-friendly, too, or else we’re not going to see any more revenue from the lottery,” Silverman told Sports Handle in an interview. “It’s a one-two punch of sports betting and the lottery.”
For GambetDC to exist past 2024, Silverman’s bill requires the lottery to show that there’s a reasonably certain path to profitability for the platform. GambetDC actually lost the District money last year.
Finally, Silverman’s bill would clarify that sports betting licenses in the District are non-transferable and licensees need to apply for new licenses following mergers, acquisitions, and other changes of control.
GambetDC recently overhauled its interface in an attempt to become more appealing to customers. Unfortunately, the rollout of the changes wasn’t exactly smooth.
After downloading the new version of the iOS app, some users found that it would immediately kick them out after they logged in. Reinstalling the app seemed to fix the problem, but it’s yet another example of GambetDC posing a challenge to users.
The updates to the app make it more user-friendly than the original version, but it’s still not quite as seamless as using a platform like BetMGM or FanDuel. For example, the homepage of the app responds strangely depending on where you click on the page. Areas that seem like they would allow you to scroll down if clicked sometimes don’t scroll at all or only scroll sideways.
GambetDC’s new app requires fewer clicks than before to navigate to wagers, but it’s not quite as intuitive as major mobile sportsbooks. Even with interface overhauls, it’s hard to suggest that GambetDC compares to the experience of wagering with a major operator.
So will things change?
100% welcome but we’ll see if it actually happens
— Billy Burgess (@billiamburgess) October 24, 2022
“I think there is support for making a change,” Silverman said.
Silverman hopes her bill sparks action, but she also knows an adjustment to the District’s wagering system might not be immediate. The bill needs to be referred to a committee — likely Business and Economic Development — which could then decide to hold a hearing to move the bill.
“I think there’s an urgency to it because of the revenue loss,” Silverman said. “We are at the end of a council session at the end of the year, so realistically it would be difficult to move it … I hope if it’s not moved this year, that we will reintroduce it probably at the beginning of next year and hopefully get some movement on it before the next budget, which would be in the spring.”