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Washington DC on the Verge of Legal Sports Betting

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(SAUL LOEB / AFP)

The Washington, D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming has finally determined a jumping-off-point for its legal sports betting platform. Originally slated to be launched in March and eventually shelved due to the coronavirus pandemic, GambetDC is scheduled be ready at the end of May after a long tough battle with the first bets in DC officially taking place in early June.

“While we recognize there will be a limited number of events to wager on, this ‘soft launch’ will provide us with an opportunity to roll out the GambetDC website to potential players in the District in preparation for the return of sports,” Nicole Jordan, director of marketing and communications for the lottery, said.

“The [GambetDC] website will be available to the general public with this release,” the D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming’s statement said. “The native iOS and Android apps will be unveiled in early June. A full-scale advertising and marketing campaign promoting GambetDC will launch as soon as there is a more robust schedule of major sporting events.” Anyone over the age of 18 will be able to bet in DC as long as they are within the borders of the District.

The delays

Legal sports betting in DC has been on the table for quite some time. The culmination of nearly a year's work is definitely a welcome development. The idea of a legal wagering platform was floated in early 2019 with an eye on the 2019-2020 NFL season as its launch date. Obviously that goal was not realized.

Lawsuits bogged down the application and implementation processes in DC and the plans were ripe with controversy from day 1. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and more delays ensued. After many interruptions, sports betting is finally an impending reality in Washington DC although the platform still has many detractors.

According to the GambetDC site however, “the sports betting platform powered by the DC Lottery, is tested and ready to go live.” That said, it looks like the app associated with GambetDC won’t quite be ready until sometime in June which isn’t ideal for launch.

The single-vendor model

DC Lottery officials have faced criticism since the announcement of their chosen sports betting model. That model has Greek betting giant Intralot as the sole vendor in the state, which is a similar approach to that taken in Montana. In DC, the no-bid contract that was awarded to Intralot was even contested in court where the suit was eventually dismissed by a superior court judge.

In Montana, Intralot has faced some scrutiny, from the sub-standard, some even calling them terrible betting lines they put out in the state for UFC 249 to the fact that Intralot’s offer was the only one considered to the general feeling that the company was ill-equipped to deal with the day-to-day workings of a sports betting platform. Officials in Washington DC were assured that Intralot's bugs were worked out prior to the launch and that the platform was ready to go.

Oregon, Rhode Island and New Hampshire are other sports betting jurisdictions that are being run with a single vendor, and those platforms haven't exactly experienced smooth sailing either. Hopes are that the time of COVID closures was well-used to get these states running more smoothly and effectively with their single-vendor platform.

Sports return

Sports are returning in the US. The UFC, NASCAR and golf have already pulled off some successful events, making the timing for the Washington DC sports betting launch perfect. The NHL has outlined a plan to return, the NBA is in talks to commence an abbreviated close to their season and the NFL is planning to move forward as planned.

Washington DC’s legal sports betting industry will be given every opportunity to thrive with life coming back to normal and major sports coming back online.

Everybody wins

Intralot has an apparent monopoly on the sports betting business in Washington, DC. But some other major players have been tabbed to provide services in DC’s professional sporting venues. William Hill will operate out of Capital One Arena. and D.C. United is close to an agreement to provide sports betting opportunities through Caesars Entertainment at Audi Field.

It has been a long time coming for sports betting fans in Washington DC but a year-long wait is about to pay off. Assuming there are no hiccups like seen in Intralot’s launch in Montana and with hopes that DC’s single-vendor model isn’t as troublesome as we have seen in other states, Washington DC should find some success with their sports betting platform.

Everybody wins in our Nation’s Capital. Sports teams, sports fans, betting providers and ultimately the District will all gain from the long-awaited legal sports betting platform.