Even with less expected revenue, DC says Md. not hindering sports betting — yet

DC Lottery’s Gambet app has been much maligned in the sports betting industry; and during a D.C. Council Oversight hearing on Wednesday, that criticism continued.

Criticized for the monopoly it has over most of the city, as well as the glitches and poor odds that have been associated with the app since its launch, one of two witnesses urged the council to allow other mobile platforms the same access to the market that the city has.

“The odds are terrible, and they don’t exactly have the impetus — I know they’re trying to balance generating as much revenue as possible for the city, which is laudable. However, the product that they’ve produced to do that isn’t generating that money because nobody has any interest in it,” said Michelle Minton, who works for the Reason Foundation.

“Were they an employee, they would be fired. If they were an elected official, they would not be reelected,” Minton added.

But when it was his turn to talk, Frank Suarez, head of the DC Lottery, said the current sports betting set up in the city was profitable and was providing District taxpayers a better deal than the private market would.

“Sports wagering in the District continues to significantly expand,” Suarez said.

In the 2022 fiscal year, he said private operators saw increased wagers placed, as well as the amount of money wagered. That’s not the case through the first quarter of this year, though tax revenue is still up. But Suarez said that the city’s Gambet app saw even better growth and generated $2.7 million in the 2022 fiscal year.

He said on a per capita basis, D.C.’s model is generating more tax revenue than most other states around the country, including Virginia. Mobile betting in Maryland, which started right around Thanksgiving, hasn’t been around enough to factor into things yet.

All that being said, after not making any money at all in the 2021 fiscal year, the Office of Lottery and Gaming said it is expecting to take in less revenue this year.

“We wanted to make sure that we were being conservative in regards to Maryland’s impact, not knowing what Maryland was really going to do to our numbers,” Suarez said.

He noted that a significant portion of Gambet account holders had Maryland addresses, and so even though revenue in so far is ahead of where things were last year, he’s bracing for that to slow down.
“Everything would have said ‘yes we expect it to’ and I still think it will, but it may be a bit longer because we’re having so much growth,” said Suarez. “But we haven’t yet seen that actually happen.”

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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