Silverman Introduces Bill to Reform D.C. Sports Betting

Creates competitive mobile app market, getting rid of controversial sole-source deal

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large) introduced legislation that would reboot the District’s troubled online sports wagering program by allowing mobile apps such as DraftKings and FanDuel to compete for business alongside D.C. Lottery’s poor performing GambetDC app. The bill would also prohibit the renewal of the city’s lottery contract with Intralot, which received a $215 million sole-source deal to run both the lottery and sports betting that was highly controversial.

The District’s sports betting program was supposed to be a bonanza, contributing approximately $25 million per year for the District’s budget. Instead, it has been dud—actually losing $4 million in its first full year of operations.

“We need to turn the page on this embarrassing episode,” Silverman said. “Residents deserve an online app that works, taxpayers deserve a program that brings in money for the District, and we all deserve a system where we don’t hand huge contracts to a preferred company and its subcontractors without even looking at the competition.”

Silverman was one of five Councilmembers who voted against the sole-source contract to Intralot, which operates D.C.’s lottery system. The contract and enabling legislation created an exclusive market for Intralot’s sports betting GambetDC app in the city, except around venues such as Capital One Arena and Nationals Park. Proponents of the deal said that the city would benefit from being a “first mover” in the region, but the Gambet app has been roundly criticized by betters for being difficult to use. Gambet largely shut down during the biggest sports betting event of the year – the Super Bowl. The program is bringing in less money than it has spent and is operating at a loss. 

Gambet is the only app allowed to operate in the District, except in stadiums and retail establishments that are licensed separately to offer sports betting and in federal areas where sports gambling is not permitted. Meanwhile, neighboring jurisdictions are competing for sports betting revenue. Mobile sports betting apps became legal in Virginia last year, and Maryland is poised to launch its program as soon as next month.

Silverman’s legislation, the Sports Wagering and Fair Competition Amendment Act of 2022, would: 

  • Allow any company to apply for licenses to operate online and mobile sports betting apps in the District, with a 15% tax (same as the rate in Virginia and Maryland);
  • Terminate the contract with Intralot in 2024, when it expires, instead of exercising an option to renew;
  • Require competitive bidding for future contracts to run the District’s lottery system and sports betting operations; and
  • Get serious about profitability, requiring bidders for those contracts to reasonably show how they would make money for the District.

Read more in this explainer.

“If we’re going to have a lottery and a sports betting program, let’s at least make it a revenue generator for the city so it can fund important efforts in public safety, public education and housing,” Silverman said. “And let’s stop the bad practice of awarding lucrative contracts without competition.”

The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6).