GambetDC under fire again

D.C. Council members voice concerns about underperforming city-wide sports betting app

Council of the District of Columbia, U.S.
Reading time 2:51 min

D.C. Lottery’s sports betting app GambetDC is yet again under fire, with some in the District Council believing the situation can no longer sustain. The product -the only one working citywide in Washington, D.C.- keeps losing money and underperforming. Last year, D.C. lost $4 million through the program when initial projections had the city making over $90 million by now

The current picture is much different from the one expected when GambetDC was launched in 2020, and many members in the District Council who voted in favor of the setup have since expressed regret, reports WTOP. The state of the product and sports gambling in D.C. was discussed in a Wednesday Council committee oversight hearing.

Projections for the sports betting plan have been systematically lowered. But what’s more, the product also appears to be underperforming in comparison to in-person sports wagering operations -such as betting windows or on-site mobile options- the opposite of any other jurisdiction where statewide mobile is available, revealed Kenyan McDuffie, chairman of the Business and Economic Development Committee at the District Council.

“From the council’s perspective, this can’t continue,” McDuffie said on Wednesday. Council member Mary Che agreed with this, and said that she opposed the plan from the beginning, stating that the contract for exclusive control over mobile sports betting was “problematic.”

But while the app has been met with generalized criticism, some believe the program could eventually make a difference in the longer term. Frank Suarez, who heads the Office of Lottery and Gaming, said at the meeting that GambetDC is now heading in the right direction, while the private companies that operate in small pockets of the city are seeing declines.

“The ship is righting already,” Suarez said, according to the cited news source. “GambetDC handle is up significantly this year. The transfer is up. It’s over double what the private operators are providing in tax revenue. Everything points in the right direction and the model is working as it should now.” 

The GambetDC program, which turned two years old in May, has an advantage over others in D.C. by being allowed to set up kiosks in venues around the city while also running the only mobile app that can be used around most of the District. Meanwhile, other parties are limited to either one physical location or mobile apps that can only work within two blocks of that location.

Retail GambetDC windows

For Suarez, D.C. is small enough so it won’t hinder people who want to make a choice and, since improving the odds it provides to bettors, he believes people are more interested in using GambetDC. According to the Lottery and Gaming official, the product’s handle is up 31% year-to-date versus 2021 in the same time period. Suarez also mentioned GambetDC providing $2.2 million in tax revenue to the District in this fiscal year during the meeting.

Still, one could argue that the app’s performance in the comparable period was so poor that, in contrast, 2022’s results have no other choice but to be better. The disappointing performance thus far has led many to suggest a change in the law and to open up a competitive mobile sports betting market in the city, but Suarez has taken a stance against this.

According to him, and without giving exact figures, the move would not be in the city’s interests. Suarez called a potential change of model to privately-operated mobile apps “riskier,” and said it would provide a lower share of sports wagering profits to the District, in addition to increasing regulatory costs.

The app has faced significant criticism since its launch, with customers complaining about issues such as a clunky interface, subpar odds and withdrawal challenges. In February, the GambetDC program saw its image further tarnished when the app went offline during Super Bowl, the biggest day of the year for sports betting

The DC Lottery has since blamed the fiasco on a software glitch at Intralot SA, with which it signed a five-year contract in 2019 to run the services. In April, the Lottery said it received $500,000 in compensation from the company for the issue. The app is also reportedly working on a series of improvements to be introduced later this year.

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