Jan 23, 2024 - News

D.C. considers private sports betting operator after GambetDC debacle

Animated illustration of a GambetDC app on a phone starting to shake, and a delete button popping up in the top right corner.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Following the disappointment of the GambetDC sports betting app, D.C. could welcome a big-name gambling platform to town.

Why it matters: Unlike Maryland and Virginia, D.C. doesn't allow private sports gambling companies to operate in the city, even after years of bettors putting up with glitches on GambetDC and the app dramatically underperforming revenue projections.

Driving the news: Frank Suarez, the head of the D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming, made the unexpected disclosure at a council hearing last Thursday that the city is considering allowing a private operator, the Washington Post reported.

  • "We want a bigger brand," Suarez said. "We want something that players are used to and highly satisfied with, which is why we're looking to make the change."

Catch up fast: D.C. originally decided to build GambetDC instead of allowing companies like FanDuel or DraftKings to operate because council members believed it would be the most profitable option. But the app has been a user and political headache.

  • While GambetDC flopped, the owner of a small local firm contracted to run the app collected a lavish paycheck, Axios reported last year.
  • D.C.'s gambling operator, the Greek company Intralot, has paid at least $1.4 million annually to the owner of Veterans Services Corp. (VSC), we reported at the time.

State of play: D.C.'s five-year contract with Intralot to manage sports gambling will end in July.

  • The District will likely seek to extend the contract with modifications to allow a new — currently unnamed — private sports gambling operator, Suarez told lawmakers.

Flashback: Past attempts to reform the no-bid $215 million contract with Intralot failed, even from within the company, as Axios uncovered last year.

  • Intralot's former U.S. CEO waged a fruitless crusade to recoup millions of dollars his company had promised the small local firm responsible for GambetDC, but the District rejected his proposal to modify the contract.

What's next: Lawmakers have several months to decide how to move forward before the contract expires. Another hearing is planned for Feb. 14.

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