Washington, DC Launches First Online Sportsbook

  • GambetDC platform, operated by DC Lottery, launched on Thursday
  • Mobile app not available until June, users can only place bets via web browser
  • Wagers cannot be made on federal land or within two miles of professional sports stadiums
  • Only a soft launch due to current lack of sporting events over COVID-19 cancellations
Washington DC State Capitol building with red flowers in the foreground
Washington, DC now has legal online sports betting with the launch of the DC Lottery’s GambetDC sportsbook. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A new era for the district’s sports bettors

Washington, DC residents are now able to place legal sports bets online following the launch of GambetDC on Thursday. The announcement was made on the sportsbook’s newly created official Twitter account:

Current wagering options at GambetDC include professional darts matches and Bundesliga German soccer league games. 

mobile app to be ready to go at some stage in June

The mobile app is not yet operational, which means sports bettors can only wager through web browsers for now. There are plans for the mobile app to be ready to go at some stage in June. The retail sportsbooks at the likes of sports stadiums in DC are still under regulatory review.

GambetDC cannot be used on federal land or inside of two blocks of the district’s professional sports arenas. Betting on college sports is allowable as long as no college from DC is involved or if it is not an event that is taking place in the district. 

DC Lottery’s launch strategy

A spokesperson for DC Lottery, the operator of GambetDC, said it will not be promoting or advertising the platform. The main reason for this is the current lack of sports to wager on.

Sports betting activity in the US is gradually resuming, with most major sporting events having been suspended for the last couple of months over the outbreak of COVID-19. The soft launch of GambetDC will encourage players to register in anticipation of more sporting events returning down the line. At the moment, users can still sign up for their accounts and place bets on the available markets.

According to the communications director at the DC Lottery, Nicole Jordan, betting on day one went smoothly. The only issue was that registration emails had been sent to the spam folders of some new sign-ups. Speaking about the decision to call the platform Gambet, Jordan said it is meant to bring the word “gambit” to mind, as it involves an activity that carries some risk. She said: “We thought it was a clever way to really say sports betting.”

A number of delays

The launch of legal online sports betting in Washington, DC was set back a number of times after the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018 was signed into law by Mayor Muriel Bowser on January 22, 2019.

Sports betting was set to launch in the fall of 2019, right before the start of the NFL season. However, a lawsuit over the awarding of the no-bid sportsbook contract to Intralot, said to be worth $215m, postponed the start date. In the end, no individuals were charged in the legal case.

sports betting was set to launch in the fall of 2019

The launch was then set for March 2020, in time for the popular March Madness college basketball tournament. However, the sporting event had to be canceled following the outbreak of the pandemic, causing yet another delay.

Other controversies

Another controversy along the way occurred with the discovery that a local partner in the sports betting contract had links to former members of the DC Council.

There was also a scandal involving finance committee chair and former DC Council member Jack Evans, one of the main drivers of legal sports betting in the district. He was forced to resign in January 2020 after investigators discovered that he had been involved in numerous unrelated ethics and conflict of interest violations.