Saturday marks the two-year anniversary of the launch of GambetDC. (Cue the groans from Washington D.C. sports bettors.)
The oft-criticized sports betting platform hasn’t had an ideal two years of existence, as users have complained about the site’s odds and interface, among other concerns. There’s even potential that the D.C. Council could decide to move away from GambetDC in coming months and years, if the platform’s performance doesn’t improve.
Twitter has been 🔥 today poking fun of @DCLottery's Gambet product and their -118 lines on the NFL.
However, FAR FAR worse, is their theoretical hold on tonight's NASCAR event.
A staggering 75.42% theoretical hold on the lines offered!
😵 That's dizzying even for a lottery! pic.twitter.com/R2J7cdC5zs
— Captain Jack Andrews (@capjack2000) May 28, 2020
A few days before GambetDC’s second birthday, let’s take a look down memory lane at the timeline of (mostly disappointing) events since the lottery-run platform debuted.
May 28, 2020: The launch
GambetDC launched at an unusual time in sports history, as the COVID-19 pandemic greatly disrupted professional sports across the country in the spring of 2020. Bettors were wagering on obscure events like professional darts as they waited for major American professional leagues to return to action.
Prior to GambetDC launching, the D.C. Council awarded a sole-source contract to Intralot to be the District’s sports betting provider. The Greek-based company was an interesting choice for the contract, and it came as a bit of a shock that the D.C. Council was willing to bypass a competitive bidding process when awarding the contract.
Intralot eventually created GambetDC, and that became the lottery’s sports betting offering. Major national operators like BetMGM (Nationals Park), Caesars (Capital One Arena), and FanDuel (Audi Field) were given access to the D.C. sports betting market, but only through retail sportsbooks at sports facilities and with mobile apps that can only be used within a two-block radius of the venues.
In hindsight — and even at the time — the Intralot contract was questionable at best. Former council member Jack Evans held ties to Intralot that caused concern among other council members, but the contract with Intralot was still approved.
June 1, 2020: Platform shows flaws
It didn’t take long for complaints to start flooding in about GambetDC. Just a few days after the platform launched, an article in the Washington Post detailed problems with the platform.
The issues were wide-ranging, and geolocation topped the list. Users appeared quite confused about where in D.C. they could wager, as gambling is prohibited on federal land. The location’s geolocation rules are about as complicated as any jurisdiction in the country, and those certainly didn’t help ease new users onto the platform. While not entirely the fault of Intralot or the lottery, the complicated geolocation restrictions make betting in D.C. challenging.
About a month after launching, more complaints about GambetDC surfaced, with users this time upset about the platform’s interface.
July 2021: GambetDC adds retail kiosks
With Caesars opening a full-service sportsbook at Capital One Arena in May of 2021, GambetDC added retail kiosks throughout the District shortly after. The kiosks give D.C. sports bettors additional options outside of using GambetDC’s online platforms to place wagers.
“By the end of the year, we’ll have a network with breadth,” said Nicole Jordan, the D.C. lottery’s director of communications. “We want to make sure [bettors] have the opportunity to play wherever they want to, however they want to, and really have a robust retail network to complement mobile.”
There are currently more than 40 GambetDC retail betting locations available throughout the city.
September 2021: Audit raises concerns
An audit of GambetDC conducted by the Office of the D.C. Auditor (ODCA) didn’t paint a pretty picture of GambetDC’s performance.
“ODCA recognizes the difficulty of making judgments on the performance of GambetDC due to the unforeseen circumstances attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the auditors wrote. “Nevertheless, when compared to both William Hill [now Caesars] sportsbook in the District and to results in other states, GambetDC did not perform as well.”
Overall the audit can be summed up as basically saying the city has a bad deal and needs to do better.
— John Domen (@JDDsays) September 9, 2021
The audit cited needs for improvement after comparing D.C. sports betting offerings to Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Illinois, Montana, and Colorado. Better odds and interface enhancements were among the suggestions.
“Despite having the lowest total handle, the District has the highest GGR margin of all jurisdictions selected for comparison,” the auditors said. “The District may benefit from incentivizing betters with improved betting odds. Although the District would retain a smaller share of revenue, improved odds may lead to an increase in bets. Improving the GambetDC app’s functionality and technical issues experienced by users could also assist in attracting additional betters to GambetDC.”
On a positive note for GambetDC, the audit mentioned the potential positive impact of building out a retail network in the District. With over 40 retail betting locations in D.C., the lottery has worked to address that issue.
Other changes, like an improved GambetDC interface, are expected in the summer of 2022.
Feb. 13, 2022: iOS app Super Bowl crash
In the latest GambetDC mishap, the iOS app crashed on Super Bowl Sunday a few hours before kickoff. The iOS app was down for the entirety of the game, preventing iOS users from making in-game wagers. While the Android app and web browser still worked, it was a subpar development for those accustomed to betting on their iPhones.
Banner day for D.C. sports betting pic.twitter.com/3HCWQSntzN
— Noah Frank (@NoahAFrank) February 13, 2022
It came out after the incident that the blame fell squarely with Intralot, which failed to receive a necessary SSL certification update with Apple. Not receiving the update caused the app to be down temporarily during the important football matchup.
March 3, 2022: D.C. Council raises questions
At a D.C. Council committee meeting, Kenyan McDuffie questioned D.C. Lottery Executive Director Frank Suarez about the Super Bowl incident. During the discussion, which also included general dialogue about GambetDC’s performance, it came out that GambetDC ran a $4 million deficit in 2021.
Suarez explained the reasoning behind slashed revenue projections, as McDuffie seemed frustrated with GambetDC’s performance. McDuffie floated the idea of allowing major national operators to offer mobile offerings throughout the District and not just in a two-block radius around some stadiums. Suarez expressed desire to stick with the current model.
“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.
March 2022: Intralot pays lottery $500,000
Intralot awarded the D.C. lottery $500,000 for GambetDC’s Super Bowl outage. The mobile app provider gave the lottery $65,000 for potential bets lost on the Super Bowl, as well as $6,300 for a free-bet promotion the lottery offered to ease user frustrations after the incident. The rest of the financial compensation ($428,700) accounted for the marketing costs tied to restoring damage to GambetDC’s reputation.
Intralot Pays D.C. Lottery $500,000 For GambetDC’s Super Bowl Flop https://t.co/W329fc27Pe
— Elys Game Technology (@ELYS_Gaming) April 12, 2022
“You can’t measure reputational damage,” Suarez said. “It’s just not an easy thing for us to put a value to or measure, but we did look at how much we believe we may have lost in player registrations and lifetime value of that and just making sure that we got that back. That’s what the marketing funds are for, to help us drive new player registrations to make up for that.”
May 28, 2022: Two-year anniversary
The end of the month signals the two-year anniversary of GambetDC’s launch, and the app has underperformed since going live. Whether it’s subpar financial figures or a clunky interface, it’s easy to see why people have complaints with the platform.
The lottery has promised improvements in coming months, including interface enhancements. By the 2022 NFL season, lottery officials expect GambetDC to function more like a major national mobile sportsbook.
While questions have been floated by McDuffie and other D.C. council members about getting out of the Intralot contract and abandoning GambetDC, that potential reality has yet to come to fruition. Some council members seem content to wait and see if GambetDC improves this summer before trying to make a switch.