A D.C. councilmember yesterday introduced a bill to help inject new life into Washington, D.C.’s floundering online sports betting market.

Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large) introduced legislation to terminate D.C.’s current lottery contract with Intralot, which runs the district’s only online sports betting app, and open D.C.’s online sports betting market up to a competitive bidding process for licenses.

A competitive D.C. online sports betting market

The bill seeks to terminate the district’s exclusive sports betting contract with Intralot and do away with its poorly reviewed GambetDC online sports betting app in 2024. Intralot’s contract with the district expires in 2024, though it does include a renewal clause.

Future online sports betting licenses would be awarded through a competitive bidding process and be open to any sports betting operator. The legislation sets the online sports betting tax rate at 15%, same as Virginia and Maryland online sports betting.

Each new operator license will be issued for 5 years and require a non-refundable application fee of $1 million. Licenses would be eligible for renewal after 5-year periods for a renewal application fee of $500,000.

The proposed legislation is a stark difference from D.C.’s online sports betting market, which only allows one operator, GambetDC. The sports betting app is operated by the D.C. Lottery and has fallen well short of expectation since its June 2020 launch.

Moving on from Intralot

Early projections called for the district’s sports betting program to contribute nearly $25 million per year for the D.C. budget. However, during its first year of operation the sports betting app actually lost nearly $4 million.

“We need to turn the page on this embarrassing episode,” Silverman said in a press release. “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.”

The contract created an exclusive markets for Intralot’s sports betting app, except in professional sports arenas in the district, such as Capital One Arena, Nationals Park, and Audi Field. All have retail sportsbooks for fans (Caesars at Capital One Arena, BetMGM at Nationals Park, and FanDuel at Audi Field) at their respective stadiums and all have outperformed the GambetDC app at various points of its run.

Keeping up with the neighbors

A revamp of the district’s online sports betting market is a necessity to keep up with Virginia’s online sports betting market and Maryland’s soon to be launch market, Silverman noted.

Virginia launched online sports betting last year and Maryland is poised to launch online sports betting in late November, early December of this year.

“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 in a release. “And let’s stop the bad practice of awarding lucrative contracts without competition.”