D.C. Online Sports Betting Options To Triple Starting Monday

Erik Gibbs

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The Washington, D.C., sports betting market is on the cusp of a major shakeup. After years of a single-operator model, BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook are poised to launch their mobile apps this coming Monday, July 15, marking the end of FanDuel’s brief exclusive reign.

This development comes after the DC Council approved a new budget that included a provision removing FanDuel’s exclusivity clause. The move away from exclusivity stems largely from the shortcomings of GambetDC, the city’s previous online sports betting platform that launched in March 2020.

Operated by lottery vendor Intralot, GambetDC failed to meet expectations as it struggled to attract users and generate significant revenue. Critics pointed to a clunky user interface, limited betting options, and uncompetitive odds as key factors behind GambetDC’s underwhelming performance. Several DC Council members asserted from the start that the only purpose of GambetDC was to generate revenue for the district, regardless of whether the sportsbook used a commonsense approach to betting.

GambetDC also faced criticism for its technical issues, including a notable crash during the 2022 Super Bowl. These shortcomings led to a significant loss in potential revenue and public trust, prompting the search for a more reliable alternative.

The platform’s struggles not only limited consumer choice but also fell short of generating the substantial tax revenue the city had envisioned. In an attempt to salvage the situation, the D.C. Lottery awarded FanDuel a subcontract to manage the online platform in April 2023.

FanDuel no longer in control

This initially appeared promising, with FanDuel boasting a significant increase in wagers placed compared to GambetDC. However, the idea of an expanded market loomed large.

The DC Council, recognizing the limitations of the single-operator model and the potential benefits of increased competition, opted to scrap exclusivity in the new budget. This decision has been met with approval from several parties.

Among them were several prominent sports franchises in the district that saw an open market as a way to attract a wider fanbase and potentially secure lucrative partnerships with sportsbooks. BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook, both major players in the national sports betting landscape, wasted no time in announcing their intention to enter the D.C. market upon the July 15 launch date.

The arrival of these new operators is expected to benefit D.C. sports bettors in several ways. Increased competition often leads to better odds, more diverse betting options, and potentially more enticing promotions.

Potential for greater tax revenue

Additionally, the tax structure for online sports betting has been revised. Under the GambetDC model, FanDuel paid a 40% tax rate on its revenue. The new budget reduces the tax rate to a more industry-standard 20% for all operators, potentially making the D.C. market even more attractive. This reduction not only benefits the operators but also allows the city to maintain a healthy tax revenue stream without stifling market growth.

However, the future landscape of D.C. sports betting remains somewhat uncertain. FanDuel, despite its initial success following the GambetDC takeover, has reiterated its threat to leave the market if it loses its exclusive control. Whether FanDuel follows through on this threat remains to be seen.

Additionally, other major operators like DraftKings and Fanatics Sportsbook, which actively lobbied the DC Council for market access earlier this year, are likely to continue their push for inclusion. Both have already reiterated their interest, and their arrival should be coming soon. 

The potential for a saturated market with several operators vying for a limited customer base is a concern. Many sportsbooks, like Betway most recently, have exited the U.S. betting market entirely because they couldn’t grab a large enough foothold. D.C. is a relatively small market and some sportsbooks could experience similar challenges there.