Existing no-bid contract expires in July

Washington D.C. seeks private operator to revamp underperforming GambetDC sports betting app

Reading time 2:25 min

Washington, D.C.'s Office of Lottery and Gaming (OLG) is exploring the possibility of handing over its struggling sports gambling app, GambetDC, to a private operator with a more established platform. 

This decision, disclosed during a D.C. Council hearing, was unexpected for lawmakers who were discussing the app's future as its five-year, no-bid contract with the Greek gaming company Intralot is set to expire in July.

Frank Suarez, the head of the OLG, collaborated with Intralot to identify a potential subcontractor, raising questions among city leaders dissatisfied with GambetDC's performance since its launch in May 2020. The app faced technical issues, poor odds, and other challenges, leading to a damaged reputation among D.C. bettors.

The platform has brought just a fraction of the $20 million in annual revenue that D.C.’s former chief financial officer forecasted in 2019, reports The Washington Post, when the council awarded Intralot $215 million to develop the city’s sole sports betting platform.

Suarez aims to improve the situation by bringing in a private operator with a strong brand to make the District more competitive with neighboring states like Maryland and Virginia. He expressed the desire for a platform that players are familiar with and highly satisfied with, emphasizing the need for change.

It’s no secret that the private operators have a very strong brand, so they’re able to really able to use that branding and that advertising to draw in more players,” Suarez said at the hearing, as per the cited media. “We want a bigger brand. We want something that players are used to and highly satisfied with, which is why we’re looking to make the change.”

Suarez hinted his agency will likely seek to extend a modified contract with Intralot beyond this summer, a proposal met with skepticism by Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie, who led the hearing and chairs the council’s business and economic development committee.

McDuffie highlighted the significant shortcomings of GambetDC, noting that instead of the projected $84 million by now, the app has brought in just over $4.3 million throughout its lifetime. He expressed concerns about usability, customer service, and declining returns for the city.

Simply put, sports betting in the nation’s capital is not working. Tell the public what’s gone wrong, and more importantly, what precisely they intend to do to fix the mess that’s been made," McDuffie added.

Suarez defended the move, stating that the initial revenue projections were too high, and the app struggled to compete with private operators in the region. He revealed that Intralot proposed subcontracting with an unnamed private operator around November 2022 to replace D.C.'s platform, acknowledging the limitations of the platform created by them.

While GambetDC has seen improvements in odds and interface, it has struggled to overcome its negative reputation. Suarez believes that partnering with a private operator app that players perceive as better is an opportunity for improvement.

The OLG has submitted a proposal to modify Intralot's contract, considering a subcontracting deal with conditions. However, Suarez did not disclose the identity of the potential subcontractor or revenue projections, citing the need to maintain the integrity of the process.

The proposed subcontracting plan is seen as the fastest way to see improvements, compared to the lengthy process of rebidding contracts. Suarez estimates that the plan could be implemented by the end of February.

Representatives from private operators like DraftKings and BetMGM testified at the hearing in favor of another alternative: opening up D.C.'s marketplace similarly to Maryland and Virginia. However, Suarez cautioned that an open mobile market could negatively impact retail businesses benefiting from operating GambetDC kiosks.

Lottery officials are expected to testify about the betting program again on February 14 as part of the council's annual oversight process.

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