DC Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) on Monday introduced legislation that would end the monopoly held by Intralot over the District’s troubled mobile sports-betting operation, opening it up to other companies such as DraftKings or FanDuel.
GambetDC could soon have sports-betting competition in Washington, D.C.
Months after the Council voted to legalize sports betting in the District in December 2018, it awarded a $215 million, no-bid contract to the Greek company Intralot, which also operates the city’s lottery. In turn, Intralot introduced GambetDC — the only sports- betting app that can be used across the city — in May 2020.
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GambetDC immediately was met with poor reviews from sports gamblers who found fault with its bad odds, which gave GambetDC a much bigger house edge over its customers than is standard. Technical issues and wonky geolocation also have plagued the app, which crashed during this year’s Super Bowl, one of the biggest sports-gambling days of the year. (Intralot paid the DC Lottery $500,000 to compensate for the lost revenue stemming from the outage.)
Because of those and other reasons, GambetDC has not delivered the profits that were promised by the Office of Lottery and Gaming, which initially predicted $26 million in revenue for the District from sports betting in fiscal year 2021. Instead, GambetDC actually lost $4 million in its first fiscal year of existence, a stunningly bad result in an industry where the house almost always wins.
“We need to turn the page on this embarrassing episode,” Silverman said in a statement. “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.”
At a Council oversight hearing in March, DC Lottery officials said they expected GambetDC to bring in only $1.5 million to the city in 2022, far short of the city’s initial revenue targets. The brick-and-mortar sportsbooks that have opened up in the city , meanwhile, have overperformed their revenue estimates.
A city audit in 2021 found that Intralot had fallen short of a legal requirement to spend money with locally owned businesses, and that government agencies had failed to oversee the company’s spending
Neighboring states that have legalized sports gambling have allowed multiple companies to enter the space. In Virginia, gamblers can make online bets with 13 companies, and Maryland is about a month away from the start of its own mobile sports-betting operations, with 60 companies possibly signing on.
“Given its bad reputation and the establishment of mobile sports betting in Virginia (launched January 2021) and Maryland (launching late 2022), Gambet is a longshot to ever realize its promise,” said Silverman, who was one of five council members to vote against the sole-source Intralot bill.
The bill, named the “Sports Wagering and Fair Competition Amendment Act of 2022,” has three co-sponsors: Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6 ). Silverman is running for reelection; two at-large Council seats will be decided on Nov. 8.