DC Lottery Wants New Sports Betting Platform For GambetDC After Intralot Flop

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DC sports betting

GambetDC has struggled to find its footing in the DC sports betting market ever since it launched as the only District-wide app back in May 2020.

The DC Lottery blames the lack of excitement around GambetDC on a number of issues, including an unknown brand, the Covid pandemic changing the flow of workers in and out of the District, and an ambitious but failed attempt to hold 20% or more that led to uncompetitive lines.

With six months left in its contract with Intralot, the DC Lottery reported the real issue is the platform for GambetDC. The solution: bring in a bigger, nationwide operator that can provide a DC sports betting platform as a subcontractor to Intralot, Lottery execs told the DC Council’s Committee on Business and Economic Devlopment last month.

“Even with the changes that we made to the interface, I think there is still player perception that the odds aren’t as good and the app isn’t going to work as well,” said Frank Suarez, executive director of the DC Lottery. “So we just realized after we did the research and understood those perceptions would be difficult to change that it would be best to replace the platform.”

Another no-bid DC sports betting approval?

Intralot acting as the sports betting supplier for the DC Lottery has been a divisive topic in the District, even before the company was formally selected. The DC Council approved a no-bid approval for Intralot, the District’s Lottery supplier, by a 7-6 vote back in February 2019.

The thinking, at least publicly, behind a no-bid contract and using an already licensed supplier was to get a sports betting product up and operating as fast as possible. A major driving force behind the no-bid contract was Jack Evans, who was unanimously voted to be removed from the council later in 2019 after investigations showed he used his public position to benefit private clients.

Adding a subcontractor would essentially be a repeat of the past. Intralot is free to hire whatever subcontractors it wants for the job, Suarez said, granted that the company is approved by the DC Lottery.

“What you’re suggesting is that you’ve identified a subcontractor through some process, fairly opaque process that you can’t share with the committee, it sounds like,” Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie said.

Few details about DC sports betting subcontractor

More details will be provided by the DC Lottery when it returns for another council meeting on Feb. 14. McDuffie, though, seemed far from impressed with the suggestion and the little information given.

“I think you would understand that I’m incredulous and I think most people who, even casual observers, would be a bit cynical about what you just revealed this morning in your testimony,” McDuffie said.

The biggest selling point for Suarez is the fact that the new minimum payment the DC Lottery would receive is more than GambetDC has ever paid annually.

“Given the history of the sports betting program in the District, the existing contract, I don’t have a lot of confidence in what you’re talking about today but I also don’t have a lot of information to know what you evaluated and what Intralot provided you,” McDuffie said.

No plans beyond Intralot?

The Lottery is not working on any other plans for sports betting right now despite the contract ending in July. Suarez said his hope was the contract could be extended, even partially, to see how the new platform changes operations.

A request for proposals to get a proper bidding process in place is likely not an option. Such a process takes about a year, Suarez noted.

DC could always switch to the mobile-only plan that opens the District up to private sports betting apps while taxing those operators at 20%. That, however, does not include retail sports betting and would lead to jobs lost, Suarez contends.

Representatives from BetMGM, DraftKings and Fanatics encouraged the committee to consider opening the market up. Caesars, on the other hand, argued to keep the current model and cited its $10 million in investments at Capital One Arena.

Plenty leaving DC for sports betting

Brandt Iden, VP of government affairs at Fanatics, broke down some numbers that show there is interest in DC sports betting, just not how it currently works.

Nearly two-thirds, 66%, of Fanatics Maryland customer base attempted to log in while in DC. Another 7% from Virginia did the same.

Iden estimates the District has a sports betting penetration of around 1% to 2% of adults.