Officials express mixed reviews over DC's sports betting operation

D.C. Council is asking tough questions of the D.C. Lottery about what some members feel are shortcomings of the city’s sports betting operation.

There were early promises of millions of dollars in revenue from sports betting when D.C. started down this road.

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The dollars speak volumes.

Despite GamBet being the only mobile sports betting outfit available throughout the city, it still accounts for a much smaller percentage of the bets placed than private books in the District.

"Since it’s launch in 2020, DC’s sports wagering program has faced repeated operational challenges. These challenges directly contributed to delays in getting retail operations up and running, as well as the inability to generate a robust customer base for the district’s mobile app, GamBet D.C," said Councilman Kenyan McDuffie at a hearing Wednesday.

Mobile sports wagering is king, and the GamBet app has been plagued by issues. Some bettors tell FOX 5 there are issues with geolocation, and the app didn’t work for iPhone users during the most recent Super Bowl between the Rams and the Bengals.

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DC Lottery’s Frank Suarez acknowledges a difficult start, but insists the tide is turning, that mobile wagering is up, and he believes will continue to grow thanks to improvements to the GamBet D.C. app and better odds for bettors, to name a few things.

"This fall, we will launch a significantly enhanced user experience that is more in line with what players experience in wagering with private operators," Suarez said.

Suarez also said they’ve worked to improve odds, and added that most of the operational costs connected with starting sports wagering have been paid off.

Suarez says bets are up through the lottery. This year, the lottery originally projected a $1.5 million transfer to the general fund, but is projected to do something closer to $2.1 million, according to lottery projections. 

John Holden is an Oklahoma State Professor who studies all things sports betting.

He says early projections on tax revenues are typically optimistic and don’t account for some of the growing pains he says D.C. is experiencing.

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"The executive summary often has big numbers that needs 50 different things to go right, and the realistic chances of 50 things going right are pretty small," Holden said.

Some members of council Wednesday inquired about whether or not flooding the market with more competition could be beneficial.

Suarez says no, because of the regulatory burden it could place on the District.

Holden says states with similar models as D.C. where the lottery runs mobile wagering through one outfit have had similar bumps, but become successful.