Legal Sports Betting Finally Arrives in the Nation’s Capital

Written by Chris Monti

Legal Sports Betting Finally Arrives in the Nation’s Capital

Bettors in Washington D.C. were confronted with deeply unattractive odds when the District’s legal sports wagering platform finally went live this week. Gambet DC was supposed to be rolled out at the end of March, but the launch was delayed as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The D.C. Lottery unveiled the desktop site to minimal fanfare this week, and sports fans were left distinctly underwhelmed by the quality of odds on offer.

The biggest sporting event of the weekend sees Tyron Woodley take on Gilbert Burns at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas. The vast majority of sportsbooks across the world are offering +150 on Burns pulling off an upset, but Gambet DC will only go to +140. Bet365 has -175 on Woodley, compared to -182 at Gambet DC. That is just one example of the poor odds that sports fans in the nation’s capital must accept if they want to place legal wagers.

Another eagerly anticipated fight pits Blagoy Ivanov against Augusto Sakai on Saturday night. FanDuel is offering -104 on Ivanov and -112 on Sakai, whereas Gambet DC has just -118 on both men. The German Bundesliga returns for another round of action this weekend, and Gambet DC’s soccer odds compare unfavorably with legal sportsbooks across the US and the rest of the world.

NFL fans looking ahead to Week 1 of the upcoming season might also be dismayed to find -118 for both sides on the majority of point spreads. The industry standard is -110, and reduced juice books offer -105. If you want to bet on the Bengals to cover the spread against the Chargers, Gambet DC will only offer -139.

A Controversial Call

Why exactly is Gambet DC offering such poor odds? It all stems back to the District Council’s decision to award state lottery provider Intralot a no-bid monopoly contract to run sports wagering in D.C. The Greek lottery provider won the contract by offering to hold up to 30% of the District’s sports betting handle. It said this strategy would yield high tax revenues for the District, and the Council awarded Intralot the lucrative deal.

However, the decision proved to be extremely controversial. It emerged that Jack Evans – the sponsor of the District’s sports betting bill – had a private business relationship with William Jarvis, a lobbyist associated with Intralot. Evans has since been expelled from the council over ethical violations. Others were concerned about the financial situation at Intralot, which has been beset by financial woes in recent years.

Yet the greatest complaint was that the high-hold model would be unattractive to bettors, who would simply continue betting with offshore sportsbooks. Now we have seen the odds on offer at Gambet DC, and they look pretty miserable when compared to those provided by offshore books such as 5Dimes, Bovada and BetOnline. The D.C. Lottery may therefore have a difficult task as it bids to seize market share from offshore sportsbooks and neighborhood bookies.

A Wealth of Props

A lack of competition is another issue for the District’s new sports wagering industry. States like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana are flourishing due to the fierce competition between leading operators like FanDuel, DraftKings and William Hill. There is a clear incentive for these bookmakers to offer attractive odds, compelling bonuses and a great user experience, whereas Gambet DC has no legal competitors and it is offering dismal odds. The same is true in Montana, where Intralot enjoys a similar monopoly contract.

Yet it is still competing with the offshore books and it falls short in several regards. One positive is the wide range of prop bets on offer at Gambet DC. Bettors can choose from more than 100 wagering markets on the weekend’s Bundesliga games, and on Week 1 NFL games. This is common at sites like FanDuel and Bet365, but a lot of offshore books and neighborhood bookies will only offer spreads, totals and moneyline betting.

It is easy to navigate the Gambet DC desktop site. There is a handy search function, the sports it covers are clearly displayed and the betslip is clean and simple. The design is not particularly flashy or exciting, but many bettors prefer a clean, uncluttered site, as it allows them to place bets quickly and with minimal fuss. The mobile app is not ready yet. It should be ready to launch next month, according to the D.C. Lottery.

It appreciates that there is a lack of sport on offer right now, but it wanted customers to grow accustomed to the site before normal order is restored. “While we recognize there will be a limited number of events to wager on, this ‘soft launch’ will provide us with an opportunity to roll out the Gambet DC website to potential players in the District in preparation for the return of sports,” said Nicole Jordan, the director of marketing and communications at the Office of Lottery and Gaming.

Sports Betting Bills Advance in Ohio and Louisiana

Elsewhere, a sports betting bill passed through the Ohio House this week and it now heads to the Senate for further scrutiny. HB 194 gained approval from the House Finance Committee on Wednesday and then cleared the full House floor the following day. “We’re moving it now to start negotiations with the Senate over the summer so, when we come back early in the fall, we’ll be able to get a bill on the governor’s desk by the end of the year,” said sponsor Rep. Dave Greenspan.

Ohio could become the 22nd U.S. state to legalize sports wagering. Bettors in 18 states can already place legal sports bets, while Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee are all poised to launch following legalization votes. Louisiana is also pressing ahead with plans for legal sports betting. The House voted 71-24 to pass a sports betting referendum bill this week, meaning voters in each parish could end up deciding on the issue at the November ballot.

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