Washington DC Bucks the National Legal Sports Betting Slump
Washington DC Bucks the National Legal Sports Betting Slump
Nationals Park on July 4, 2021 in Washington, DC. Mitchell Layton/Getty Images/AFP

It is widely accepted that the summer months for the US legal sports betting industry will be lean. Absent of any marquee sporting event, and in the midst of a pre-NFL lull, participating jurisdictions have been reporting small dips in their legal sports betting activity. All have experienced slides so far in June… except for one.

Enter Washington DC, a legal sports betting market that has definitely had its share of issues and controversies since becoming one of the first markets to launch after the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to allow states to decide on their legal sports betting fate. DC is the sixth state to announce their June sports betting figures and somewhat surprisingly, they are the only one showing a healthy month-to-month increase.

The success of the platform in June can be traced back to the two national brands that operate in the Washington DC market, William Hill, which operates out of Capitol One Arena and BetMGM which launched out of Nationals Park just last month. GambetDC, the state-run Lottery platform which happens to be the only mobile app available throughout the entire DC metro area continues to underwhelm, and according to a report released in June, continues to be problem-ridden.

Washington DC’s June

Regulators of the Washington DC legal sports betting industry are reporting an admirable $19.5 million handle for the state’s 3 sportsbooks for June which is an eye-opening 41.7% increase from the disappointing $13.8 million reported in May.

Not surprisingly, it was the huge National brands, despite regulatory limitations in the market that were the big producers. William Hill, the established entity in the state and BetMGM, the new kid on the block were responsible for $16.1 million of the $19.5 million, despite only being able to take bets at the stadiums that house their platforms and a two-block radius around those facilities.

The remaining $3.4 million came from GambetDC, an app the public can access anywhere within the Washington DC borders.

How About Revenues?

Revenues followed the spike in handle but the inability on Gambet to match William Hill and BetMGM’s numbers adversely affected the overall revenue haul. The William Hill and BetMGM sportsbooks saw $1.7 million in revenues for June, a 22.1% increase from the $1.4 million in May. Gambet saw its profits drop 18.7% over the 30-day period – from $637,422 in May to $517,990 in June.

When all were added up, the tax contributions for Washington DC’s sportsbooks came in at $167,350 in June, a respectable 22.1% increase from May’s $137,067.

Thankful for the National Brands

William Hill and BetMGM are certainly a welcome presence in what was originally a single-vendor Lottery-run sports betting model in Washington DC. William Hill has been around since May 2020 at Capitol One Arena and has been the unquestioned dominant force in that market since. William Hill in DC has the distinction of being the first sportsbook to open at a pro sports venue in the US and the model for which others have followed.

BetMGM just came into operation in the Washington DC market on June 10 and Nationals Park. It will take them a few months to get established, although they have already made their presence felt there. Their product has been well received so far and once the retail facility opens at the Park later this summer, their evolution in the market should be complete.

Together, the two National brands have captured around 85% of the overall Washington DC market, and that could grow with the underwhelming nature of the GambetDC brand. This despite only being able to operate at the sports venues and a two-block radius around them, while the Gambet DC app is available for download and use anywhere within DC’s borders.

Washington DC Market Going Forward

It is expected that William Hill and BetMGM will continue to dominate the Washington DC market, but it is unclear if and when any new operators will join the three sportsbooks operating there. Competition is always positive, but only when it is on a level playing field, which the DC market is not.

In the meantime, Gambet DC and their parent company will continue to try mitigating the fallout from an audit by the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor that showed the provider’s lack of what they called “certified business enterprises” and cited a slew of operational promises they have been unable to keep.

It was a nice surprise that the Washington DC market showed such a healthy June sports betting increase, but the market there still seems a little sick. Until the District can get out from under the Lottery model and further open up opportunities for the Gambet competition, the platform will likely continue to underwhelm and become a model of “what NOT to do” when launching a legal sports betting platform.

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