Washington DC’s retail sportsbooks outperform online monopoly

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Washington DC’s handful of in-person sports betting options continue to outdraw the city’s lone legal, District-wide mobile sportsbook, the only US jurisdiction with that distinction.

The Caesars retail sportsbook at Capital One Arena generated $5.7 million in handle in August, the single largest legal sports betting generator in the District. The DC Lottery-run GambetDC mobile book took in only $3.4 million during that same time.

For the year, DC’s retail books have made up more than 70% of the city’s total sports betting handle. In most other states, online wagering makes up 90% or more.

For fiscal year 2022 so far, the Capital One Arena book, home to both the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals, has generated more than $104m in handle compared to $52.3m for GambetDC.

DC has three other live retail sportsbooks. The BetMGM book at Nationals Park, home to MLB’s Washington Nationals, accepted $2.5m in handle last month and has accepted roughly $29m so far in 2022. The newly opened FanDuel sportsbook at nearby Audi Field, home to DC United of MLS, generated $879,000 in handle in August and has so far taken in $1.7m for the calendar year.

The fourth live book, at Grand Central Restaurant & Bar in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, accepted $451,000 in bets last month and has taken in $3.6m total in 2022.

DC law permits the in-stadium retail books to also accept online bets within a few blocks of the respective venues. However, this area is far less extensive than GambetDC, which is permitted to accept bets across much of the city.

The nation’s capital was one of the first jurisdictions to approve legal sports betting, but the online aspect has been criticized since the approval process began.

DC lawmakers gave Intralot, operator of the city lottery, a no-bid contract to run a de facto online monopoly in the city. Both the decision to prohibit a multi-operator marketplace, as well as give that lone license without a competitive bid, drew outrage from bettors and industry figures alike.

Gambet has been criticized for its limited betting options, interface, line values and a host of other issues. The app is also prohibited from taking bets on federal property, which covers much DC’s city limits, making placing wagers even more difficult.

These are among the key factors that have allowed the retail market – and the centrally located Capital One Arena book in particular – to dominate handle in the market.

Meanwhile, Gambet has accepted nearly 1.75m individual wagers during the current fiscal year compared to just over 1m for the Caesars sportsbook. This indicates bettors looking to place larger bets are flocking to what they consider superior options, even if it means traveling in person to do so.

DC was the first American jurisdiction that permits both in-stadium sportsbooks as well as books at commercial bars and restaurants. Grand Central was the city’s inaugural in-restaurant sportsbook and gaming technology partner Elys has plans to open at least three more.

These strict limitations on mobile sports betting in DC has continued to hurt the revenue potential in the city, which has more than 700,000 residents and grows by several hundred thousand commuters from Virginia and Maryland each weekday.

Virginia (resident population 8.5m) has more than a dozen statewide mobile sportsbooks and generated $266m in handle in July, its most recent month with a publicly released revenue report. GambetDC generated $3.3m in handle during that same time.

Virginia sports betting generated roughly $31 per person in July 2022 compared to less than $5 per person for Gambet in DC.

Gambet’s struggles come as the same time the city’s other major neighbor, Maryland, has floundered trying to launch mobile sportsbooks of its own. DC, which is a short distance or Metro ride for several hundred thousand Marylanders, instead sees much of that money go to Virginia, offshore sites or unlicensed bookies.

Maryland residents statewide are also taking advantage of their own retail sportsbooks, several of which also outdraw Gambet. That includes the BetMGM sportsbook at MGM National Harbor, located a few hundred yards from the DC line, which accepted more than $9.6m in bets in August.

About the author

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Ryan Butler

Ryan is a veteran sports betting and iGaming regulation and breaking news journalist based in the US. A two-time Associated Press Sports Editors award winner, he has reported on sports and politics since 2012. He has covered the gaming industry since 2018. Ryan graduated from the University of Florida with a major in Journalism and a minor in Sport Management.

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