Lack Of D.C. Online Sports Betting Options Could Be Boon For Maryland

Posted on November 30, 2022 - Last Updated on January 26, 2023

Bettors in the District of Columbia are on the whole dissatisfied with the sports betting app that’s available to them. GambetDC, developed by the D.C. Lottery, has proven to be unreliable, causing players to seek alternative options elsewhere.

Now that Maryland sportsbook apps are live, D.C. bettors have a brand new betting option.

D.C. bettors celebrate Maryland launch

After nearly a year, the wait for mobile betting in The Old Line State is finally over. Maryland online sports betting launched on Wednesday, Nov. 23 — a debut celebrated by Marylanders and D.C. bettors alike.

In nearby Washington, the GambetDC app — which is the only one that can be accessed anywhere in the city — came onto the market in mid-2020. From the start, it was beset by technical problems.

In 2019, The D.C. Council approved a no-bid, $215 million, five-year contract with Greek gaming company Intralot Greek. The company was tasked with operating the city’s lottery and also developing a sports betting app.

Giving one company the sole right to offer mobile betting in a single jurisdiction is tantamount to a monopoly. It’s almost unheard of in the industry. States that permit online wagering typically approve a multitude of competitors.

While there are privately operated sports betting apps in D.C., they only work within a two-block radius of brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, making them almost unusable.

Lackluster GambetDC app reviews began immediately

From the outset, users lambasted the GambetDC platform with scathing reviews on its usability. One reviewer described the app as being “by far the worst betting platform I have ever seen.” Complaints about poor odds were also lodged.

As a result, tax revenues obtained from the app lagged significantly. A report from the D.C. Auditor’s Office in 2021 revealed that from May 2020 to March 2021, GambetDC grossed around $5.5 million. Only $440,000 landed in city coffers. That’s a far cry from initial estimates for 2021, which had the city taking in $22 million.

Nearby sportsbook options are much better for D.C. bettors

Mobile sports betting has been legal in Washington D.C. for more than a year. Yet, many D.C. players look for “far more robust options” found in neighboring Virginia. More and more bettors are reportedly making the trip across the Potomac River to wager on a reliable gambling site.

Virginia launched sports betting in January 2021. Unlike in D.C., The Old Dominion State opened up the competition to private operators of sports betting apps. These apps are accessible to D.C. residents — so long as they cross the state line into Virginia.

And they must be doing just that. Last year, gamblers wagered $203.3 million in the district, compared to $3.22 billion in Virginia, according to the Virginia Lottery.

What’s more, another neighboring state, Maryland, which rolled out sports betting nearly a year ago, celebrated the launch of seven online sportsbooks during the week of Thanksgiving. So far, 10 operators will provide Maryland with mobile betting options.

Some of the top sportsbooks, including DraftKings MD, FanDuel Maryland, BetMGM Sportsbook, and Caesars MD launched on opening day. This could quickly lead to D.C.’s bane becoming Maryland’s boon.

Maryland could very well give Washington D.C. a run for its money, as players flock to the Old Line State for a taste of better promotions and more reputable apps.

D.C. looks to improve sports betting options going forward

Washington D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman is also disappointed with GambetDC’s performance up to now as well as the general state of online betting in the district.

Together with fellow Councilmember Brooke Pinto, Silverman proposed legislation last month that would add a new class of mobile DC sportsbooks to the state and stop the council from extending Intralot’s contract come 2024. Silverman said it’s time to admit mistakes and move on.

“We need to turn a page on this embarrassing episode. 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.”

The newly proposed legislation aims to:

  • Allow any company to apply for licenses to operate online and mobile sports betting apps in the district, with a 15% tax – as it is in Maryland and Virginia
  • End the contract with Intralot in 2024 and eliminate any option for renewal
  • Require competitive bidding for future contracts
  • Induce more profitability by demanding operators indicate how they would generate money for the city

In the meantime, Maryland sports betting will continue to reap the rewards of lackluster D.C. wagering.

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Rashid Mohamed

Rashid Mohamed is an international journalist with a special interest in sports writing. He is a Poli-Sci graduate of Ohio University and holds an A.A.S in Journalism. He has worked in a number of countries and has extensive experience in the United Nations as well as other regional, national and international organizations. Rashid lives and writes out of Denver, Colorado.

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