Washington, DC Councilmember Proposes Competitive Sports Betting Bill
Washington DC’s sports betting app, GamBetDC, has been a dud since it debuted in early 2021 and one member of the city council is looking to change that by promoting a competitive bidding process.
On Monday, Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) proposed legislation that would unravel GameBetDC’s stranglehold on mobile sports betting in the city while doing away with a controversial contract with Intralot when that pact comes up for renewal in 2024. The accord with Intralot — a financially challenged Greek gaming company — has been derided because it’s a sole-source contract, meaning there wasn’t a competitive bidding process. That’s seen as one reason GameBetDC is delivering disappointing performances.
The District’s sports betting program was supposed to be a bonanza, contributing approximately $25 million per year for the District’s budget. Instead, it has been dud—actually losing $4 million in its first full year of operations,” according to a statement issued by Silverman’s office.
Widespread criticism of GambetDC since its launch include bettors decrying lines that put bettors at a disadvantage. For example, there were reports of the app offering odds of -115 to -118 (bet $115 or $118 to win $100) on games that would normally carry odds of -110 (bet $110 to win $100). Additionally, there have been technical difficulties, including the app failing iPhone users during the Super Bowl earlier this year. The Super Bowl is the most wagered on single-game event in the US.
Silverman Wants Maryland/Virginia Model
In proposing the Sports Wagering and Fair Competition Amendment Act of 2022, Silverman, who was one of five councilmembers to vote against the original Intralot agreement, is pushing the US capitol city to establish a sports betting model that’s similar to those of neighboring of Maryland and Virginia.
While mobile betting isn’t yet live in Maryland, the state will allow multiple operators to offer mobile wagering platforms. Virginia already does that.
Maryland and Virginia are homes to fast-growing, vibrant sports wagering markets that are widely open and largely dominated by commercial operators — not lotteries — and there’s evidence to suggest DC residents are going to those states to bet.
In Washington, DC, data confirm that despite the convenience offered by GameBetDC, the app has long trailed sportsbooks at sports venues, which are operated by commercial gaming companies, in terms of market share.
“If we’re going to have a lottery and a sports betting program, let’s at least make it a revenue generator for the city so it can fund important efforts in public safety, public education and housing,” Silverman said. “And let’s stop the bad practice of awarding lucrative contracts without competition.”
Three other councilmembers co-introduced the bill with Silverman.
Ins and Outs of Silverman Bill
Silverman’s proposed legislation focuses on two marquee issues — competition and profitability. The bill also calls for a 15% tax on mobile sports betting, which is the rate used in Maryland and Virginia.
In addition to terminating the Intralot contract, she wants all future DC Lottery and sports betting accords to be put to bid to multiple competitors while requiring interested parties show they intend to make these profitable endeavors.
“Get serious about profitability, requiring bidders for those contracts to reasonably show how they would make money for the District,” according to the statement.
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