New DC Sports Betting Bill Seeks To End ‘Embarrassing Episode’

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DC Sports betting bill

A new bill would open the Washington DC sports betting market up to more District-wide mobile operators and could end DC’s relationship with Intralot.

DC Councilmember Elissa Silverman‘s legislation would add a new class of mobile DC sportsbooks and prevent the council from exercising a five-year extension in 2024. The bill would have to pass by the end of the year or be reintroduced for the 2023-24 legislative session.

“We need to turn the page on this embarrassing episode,” Silverman said. “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.”

Fellow Councilmembers Brooke Pinto, Mary Cheh and Charles Allen co-introduced the bill.

DC sports betting has consistently underperformed

GambetDC began taking bets in May 2020, but its over-juiced odds from launch left a bad taste in many bettors’ mouths despite it being the only app available throughout most of the District. Most opted to wait in line to bet in person at William Hill kiosks at Capital One Arena despite the ongoing pandemic to get the best prices available.

The DC Lottery assumed an 80% payout rate, or 20% hold, would work since it planned to serve casual bettors. The Office of Lottery and Gaming‘s Executive Director Frank Suarez admitted that was a mistake in July 2022. In the same meeting, Silverman attempted to hold Lottery officials accountable for the app being unavailable during Super Bowl betting.

An insistence that the end of the pandemic would turn performance around led to consistent missed targets for DC online sports betting. The first full year of operations actually led to a loss of $4 million despite an initial forecast of $22.6 million, which was then lowered to $6.2 million.

Details of new sports betting bill

Despite the bill being just five pages, Silverman also put out a one-page explainer on what her bill would change and why. The first header is titled “The DC Sports Betting Program: A Disappointment.”

The bill would authorize Class C mobile sportsbooks, which could operate throughout the District aside from federal land like GambetDC. Operators would pay a 15% tax after a $1 million application fee for a five-year license. Those apps could not operate within the geofenced location of Class A operators BetMGM and Caesars, nor would they work in Class B retail books.

The bill would not just prohibit picking up Intralot’s option but would require competitive bidding for Lottery contracts. Intralot was handed the sports betting contract in 2019 simply for being the Lottery’s partner at the time.

GambetDC must also be “reasonably certain” to turn a profit for the District in order to continue operating beyond 2024.

Silverman wants to stop losing tax dollars

Silverman’s constituents are choosing to travel the short distance to use online Virginia sportsbooks instead of using GambetDC or traveling to a geofenced mobile area, she told LSR.

Online sports betting in Maryland is getting ready to start by the end of the year. That will give would-be DC bettors another option, especially with launch promo offers.

Time is short this year, though. DC is on a two-year legislative cycle that ends at the end of 2022.

Silverman hopes the bill will move this year but is prepared to re-introduce in January if needed.