A few weeks ago, I was at a restaurant downtown when I ran into a problem some of you may have also faced. My wife and I were sitting right in front of a television at the bar, and we had to watch what the folks next to us were watching. It was a random sporting event that had no relevance to either of us, but first-come, first-served is undeniably the code of the bar television set.
So we drank and watched and then drank some more, until it finally hit me: I can make this situation a whole lot more interesting in just a few cell phone clicks. I can throw a few dollars on this lackluster game (legally, mind you) and turn it into something on par with an NBA or NFL playoff game. It gave us a vested interest in the action, while also breaking the ice with our bar neighbors.
That’s the real beauty of GambetDC, the new sports betting offering operated by DC Lottery. You can get the same excitement and rush as playing Powerball or scratch-off tickets, only through sporting events you can take part in by watching live or on television. Sports betting is a little more personal and involved when compared to other lottery offerings, and the odds of winning are higher. A standard sports bet between two teams is similar to calling a coin in the air.
“We’re the first lottery-operated sportsbook,” says the DC Office of Lottery and Gaming (OLG)’s director of marketing and communications, Nicole Jordan. “Fifty percent of our handle goes back to the city for social services, roads, schools [and] education. We don’t have to pay a third party. We’re locally owned.”
Legal sports betting in D.C. was a long time coming. They were early adopters of legalization, voting in favor in December 2018 after the Supreme Court nullified the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 and left the decision up to individual states. As I write this, 22 states (including Virginia and West Virginia) have some form of legalized sports betting and eight more (including Maryland) have passed laws to legalize, but are yet to launch. GambetDC, which is accessible throughout most of the District, launched mobile betting in May 2020.
There are two restricted play areas for GambetDC in the city. The first, which restricts bets from all companies, is near “the monumental and governmental core of the city” and includes “much of the Potomac waterfront and Rock Creek Park,” according to the GambetDC website. The other areas are two blocks or less from the four major pro sports venues within city limits: Nationals Park, Audi Field, Capital One Arena, and St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena. These venues are all serviced by other providers.
“From a player standpoint, there’s no difference,” Jordan says. “You’re getting a world-renowened sportsbook. You’re able to bet the same way as any other platform, but in a safer and [more] convenient manner because you know where DC Lottery is.”
The restrictions aren’t unbearable by any stretch, but GambetDC will have retail options open soon as well. Retail refers to a brick-and-mortar store, restaurant or hotel’s ability to acquire a license to offer sports betting onsite. It will provide small businesses with the operation to allow for different revenues and commissions, as well as increased foot traffic
Intended to be a part of the initial launch back in 2018, GambetDC underwent delays — and the unforeseen global pandemic didn’t help. Nonetheless, as retailers are getting their capacity back up, they are looking forward to the option and having the ability to add another draw to their establishment. Consumers who have yet to experience this phenomenon in The District should be excited, too.
“Imagine you’re having your favorite drink at a restaurant [while] watching your favorite team, and you want to bet $5,” Jordan says, painting a picture of a time she assured was in the “very near” future. “You go to a self-service kiosk and place your bet. If you win, you can cash out right at the bar.”
We’re truly living in historic times with the progress we’re making. Even just 10 years ago, things like sports betting and cannabis were so forbidden and taboo in everyday life. Now, we can sit in our townhouse with pot plants growing in the next room, betting on the Nationals game and living anxiety-free knowing it’s all by the book and legitimate.
Like online books offered by the FanDuels and DraftKings of the world, GambetDC has many, many options — not just on the number of sports you can bet on, which includes everything from Major League Baseball to professional darts — but also in the juice you want from the squeeze.
If you want to risk $10 on an NFL bet, you can collect $19 (your initial $10 and an additional $9) about 50 percent of the time. You can also take that $10 and pick a few different teams, therefore lowering your chances of winning but also increasing the potential prize. This is called a parlay. A four-team parlay, meaning all four bets needed to win, pays out 10 times what you risk (i.e., risk $10, win $100).
“The one thing that differentiates us is you’ll have that retail component at your local bar or restaurant,” Jordan says. “But if you want to bet from the convenience of your home, you can do that, too. It’s about giving options to people so they can play wherever they want, however they want.”
Note: GambetDC is a paid advertiser of District Fray Magazine.
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