D.C. Sports Betting Starts Slow

Supporters expected big things of sports betting in the District of Columbia. But two months after wagers began, mobile sports betting has produced just $1.2 million in handle.

Sports betting in the nation’s capital failed to excite in its first two months in business. The DC Lottery, which regulates sports betting in the city, reported just $1.2 million in handle through August 3. The wagers produced $237,000 in revenue. The GambetDC platform launched at the end of May while the mobile app came on line a month later.

When D.C. first approved sports betting in 2018, supporters predicted $92 million in new revenues over four years. The Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with 18 months to get the program running, didn’t help the bottom line.

A major advertising and marketing campaign was held until the return of more traditional sporting events, said Nicole Jordan, director of marketing and communications at the Office of Lottery and Gaming. Still GambetDC released a number of emails offering free bets on MLB, the NBA, NHL, MLS and the PGA Tour. The results included a week and a half of MLB games, five days of NBA and three days of NHL.

GambetDC also offered odds on Korean baseball, darts, UFC, NASCAR, international soccer and other lesser-known competitions.

The city receives more per wager than other states, thanks to the odds offered by Intralot, which runs the app for the city.

By contrast, Colorado, with 5 million more residents than D.C., enjoyed $25 million in wagers in May, and $38 million in June. That netted the state more than $300,000 in revenue for those two months. In June alone, bettors in Colorado wagered nine times as much money on ping pong as D.C. saw wagered in the first two-plus months of live wagering.

Then again, Colorado has 20 different mobile apps available, compared to one in D.C.

“Because it is really much more of a monopoly, the odds that were being offered to consumers were not terribly appealing for them to want to place a bet,” said Sara Slane, head of Slane Advisory, one of the top sports gaming consulting firms in the country. “I just think it’s been a lackluster experience so far and hasn’t really attracted the demand the city was hoping would be created.”

In addition to the online sportsbook run by Intralot’s GambetDC, William Hill launched sports betting at the Capital One Arena at the end of July with a temporary sportsbook in its box office. A permanent version is expected by the fall. Increasing competition could negate any advantage the city enjoys, according to WTOP News.

Slane said the overall lack of popularity of the app could be a problem in the future as more ways to bet on sports pop up in D.C. and the surrounding area. Sports betting is also expected to begin in Virginia early next year, while Maryland might get in the game, too.

“I think you’re going to see far more choices happening outside the District and more opportunities for consumers to place bets in the neighboring states,” she said.