Missed deadline for audit of DC sports betting will frustrate lottery app’s challengers

Sports betting has been legal in D.C. for almost two years now, but it got off to a slow start for a number of reasons, including the coronavirus pandemic.

And an oversight by D.C.’s auditor may continue to hamper its rollout.

A last-minute amendment to the law that allowed sports betting, which went into effect in 2019, required an audit after two years. It was supposed to be due on May 3, but WTOP has learned the deadline will be missed.

Now, sports gambling companies that had hoped to use the auditor’s report to challenge the D.C. Lottery’s heavily criticized Gambet app may have to wait even longer to get into the market.

“Clearly we missed that,” D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson told WTOP, speaking about the last-minute addition to the law. “We missed the legal requirement, no question about that. That was an error on our part.”

The auditor’s office has been in discussion with the D.C. Council about the best way to move forward.

Companies looking to compete with D.C. Lottery’s Gambet app will now have to wait for the auditor’s numbers. It could take up to 10 months for the results.

While betting has been legal for almost two years, the first wagers were only made in the summer of 2020.

Some people were not happy when it turned out D.C. Lottery’s app did not give bettors the same odds they could get in Virginia or even while making bets in person at the William Hill sportsbook at Capital One Arena.

If you want to make a bet in D.C. outside of a two block radius of the home of the Wizards and Caps, you must use the heavily criticized Gambet mobile app.

So far the number of people wagering through William Hill’s sportsbook or William Hill’s app have exceeded the number of people wagering with the city’s Gambet app.

In every other part of the U.S. with legal sports betting, the preferred method of wagering is via an app. This difference between D.C. and the rest of the country seems to be affecting the bottom line.

While several states have reported record wagering and tax revenue in recent months, Legal Sports Report said earlier this month that the revenues produced by Gambet so far have yet to exceed the startup costs associated with its rollout.

Gaming companies seeking to get a foothold in the District were hopeful this audit would convince the D.C. Council that the city could make more money by revising the law and allowing other mobile apps access.

However it appears they’ll be waiting a while. Patterson estimated a thorough audit of the rollout would likely take 6-10 months.

“I’m in conversations with council members to see what it is they would most find useful,” said Patterson.

“Then we will pursue something — it might end up being just a look at revenues in, in a letter form, it might be something fairly short. Or we may wait and do a more thorough, what was initially envisioned, over the next year or so.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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