The DC Lottery’s sports betting platform, GamBetDC, went live Thursday and is now taking bets, albeit from a threadbare sporting calendar.
The District’s retail operations at sports bars and stadiums — which will include a William Hill sports book at the Capitol One Arena — are still under regulatory review.
The Lottery said in a statement Wednesday that it recognized there would be a limited number of events to wager on, but added it hoped the online “soft launch” would provide “an opportunity to roll out the GambetDC website to potential players in the District in preparation for the return of sports.”
Where’s the App?
It’s a soft launch, says the Lottery, because its mobile app isn’t yet ready. This is expected at some point in early June, and for now users need to be in their web browsers to place bets.
Confusingly, they must also be within the city limits but outside federal enclaves (of which there are many) and not within two blocks of a sports stadium. This presents something of a geolocation headache, which could explain technical hiccups with the app.
But the Lottery had hoped to launch wagering last September in time for the NFL season — a date that was then bumped to March to be ready in time for March Madness. It was then postponed when the coronavirus outbreak triggered the wholesale cancelation of sports. So it’s not as though this thing has been rushed to market.
It makes some sense to launch now, though, because June promises more sports than the barren months of mid-March to the end of May.
UFC250 will now take place on June 5, while the PGA Tour is expected to return, and soccer fans will be delighted by the restarts of the EPL, La Liga, and Serie A — and probably MLS — in mid-June.
Dogged by Controversy
App or no app, today’s launch marks the end of a bumpy and often controversial journey towards licensed and regulated sports betting in DC.
First, there was the decision to award the $215 million mobile betting monopoly to DC’s existing lottery operator, Intralot, in a no-bid contract. This was despite the whiff of cronyism that still lingered over the lottery contract the Greek company received back in 2009.
That deal became the subject of a federal grand jury corruption investigation, although no one was ultimately charged.
Then there was the revelation from The Washington Post that Intralot’s local partner in the sports betting contract was a company with no employees other than the CEO, Emmanuel Bailey, and his 75-year-old mother.
According to The Post, Bailey had personal links to former DC Councilmembers, and his company, Veteran Services, was registered at his mother’s house.
DC’s hopes of launching sports betting in the fall of 2019 were scuttled by a subsequent court injunction.