GambetDC’s iOS app failed during Super Bowl Sunday, and those failures were put under a microscope Thursday.
D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming (OLG) officials spoke with the D.C. Council’s committee on business and economic development and formally addressed those failures. The blame for the sports betting app’s outage falls squarely on Intralot, the mobile app provider for GambetDC. Intralot failed to receive an SSL certificate approval from Apple, which led to the iOS app being down for the duration of the Super Bowl.
D.C. Council displeased
D.C. council member Kenyan McDuffie, the committee chairman, asked several questions to OLG Executive Director Frank Suarez. Suarez, who started on the job in late August, did his best to add clarification to not only the Super Bowl mishap but also the overall issues with GambetDC.
“I think the point of this entire line of questioning, and frankly the point I suspect you would understand, is the level of frustration of not only customers, but me as chair of this committee, that this is a big deal,” McDuffie said during the discussion. “It’s the Super Bowl for goodness sake. They had an obligation under the contract, and they did not meet it.”
Suarez agreed, calling the Super Bowl iOS outage a “complete and colossal failure.” OLG is in discussions with Intralot for compensation related to the error, hoping to receive compensation for not only the city’s lost revenue, but also the potential damage to GambetDC’s already less-than-stellar reputation. The hope is that an agreement is in place within the next 10 days for Intralot to provide compensation for the error.
The OLG anticipated a Super Bowl handle of $409,000, but instead received $309,000. Suarez added that GambetDC has about 30,000 registered users, and 60% are registered via the iOS app. Users were offered a $10 free bet for the inconvenience, which was meant to encourage bettors to use the GambetDC website instead of the iOS app. Suarez reported that 268 people took advantage of that offer.
Suarez said there has been a dip in users since the Super Bowl, and OLG is monitoring to see if that’s a long-term trend related to a damaged reputation. McDuffie called the outage a “national embarrassment.”
Revenue projections drastically lowered
In addition to the Super Bowl discussion, Suarez shared that the District should expect about $1.5 million of tax revenue annually from GambetDC. That’s well down from previous projections, including some that suggested more than $20 million annually for the city.
“The learnings that we have from all of the jurisdictions that are currently doing sports wagering now and all the learnings that we did not have back then — you look at the way that the other jurisdictions are performing, their population size,” Suarez said. “Given our size, we cannot achieve that.”
McDuffie followed up on the lowered revenue projections, asking if D.C. officials should consider adjusting the way it offers sports wagering. Currently, GambetDC is offered throughout much of the District, while BetMGM and Caesars have retail locations — Nats Park and Capital One Arena, respectively — and can offer mobile betting in small areas around their retail locations. While GambetDC has struggled, BetMGM and Caesars have exceeded expectations.
“It is a solid model, but what I want to make very clear is we have to be very realistic about the expectations of the revenue,” Suarez said.
yes, who can say whether vibrant competition between several multi-billion dollar sportsbetting apps would lead to a more successful outcome than the DC government building their own app that crashed during the super bowl
impossible to know https://t.co/SUREVoimQ5
— Logan Dobson (@LoganDobson) March 3, 2022
It was also shared during the meeting that GambetDC ran a $4 million deficit in 2021, its first full year of operation. Marketing costs were cited as one of the reasons for the deficit, and Suarez mentioned the need for marketing to build the GambetDC brand, considering it’s a new app.
“It’s a startup,” Suarez said. “You have to build the brand. You have to acquire players. It takes a lot of effort there, and you’ve seen that from private operators.”
McDuffie pushed back briefly against the “building a brand” language he says he’s heard often over the last year or so.
“The trouble with continuing to hear that you’re building a brand is what happened on Feb. 13 on Super Bowl Sunday,” McDuffie said. “When you’re trying to build a brand, it doesn’t help — in fact it causes significant harm — when your app crashes.”
A common question asked in recent weeks has been whether the District should look at getting out of the Intralot contract. The five-year deal signed in 2019 led to the creation of GambetDC, which doesn’t seem to be hitting the mark.
Council members and Suarez don’t seem sold on abandoning the contract just yet, but they acknowledge GambetDC needs to be improved. User interface updates modeled after popular sportsbooks are expected to be implemented at some point this summer. Suarez hopes those, and a commitment to offering more fair lines, could help bring more customers to the app.
I hope the council knows how awful this app is. Yes, functionality stinks, but the odds, betting incentives, & parlay options are often WAY worse than other apps. It’s an inferior product. Friends often go to VA or use BetMGM in Navy Yard. At least open the whole city to BetMGM!
— Elliot Vice (@evice7) March 4, 2022
There was also discussion about a recent restructuring of Intralot’s team, which Suarez hopes will help moving forward. Intralot added additional staff members for quality assurance purposes and went through an analysis of its development process. Those changes were made after Suarez reached out to discuss the severity of the Super Bowl mishap.
Users, and some council members, want much better performance from GambetDC and Intralot. It’s worth asking, however, how many issues are too many for those decision makers to alter the status quo?
If poor user experiences, shady business dealings, subpar odds, and an embarrassing display of incompetence on Super Bowl Sunday don’t force a change, what will?