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After months of turmoil, Washington D.C. appears ready to launch their betting app with one significant catch. As it stands, the NBA, NHL, and MLB are all on suspension, while the NFL’s start date is several months away.
The Office of Lottery and Gaming has spread the word that their district-wide mobile betting app and website will be available to bettors by the end of March, despite the fact that there are not any stateside sports to bet.
“We are revising our launch strategy now based on the current state of world events/no games happening, but we will be ready to fully debut our sports book when it is safe for the sports world to return to the court, field, etc.,” an OLG spokesperson told the Washington City Paper.
But the road has been bumpy and long for the Washington D.C. app. There have been charges of corruption for the D.C. council and backroom deals for healthy contracts.
The company in charge of the district’s betting, Intralot, first became controversial when they were accused of paying off Jack Evans, a D.C. council member. The allegation led to Evans’ eventual resignation from the board after evidence surfaced that showed the council member had accepted money from the company for lobbying services.
After the D.C. scandal settled and betting continued to march to a launch date, Intralot’s questionable reputation began to grow in other states.
Bettors’ suspicion of Intralot grew in recent months because of their behavior in other states, such as Montana, where betting just became legal. The reason that bettors have said no to wagering in Montana is the lopsided betting lines that favor the sportsbook.
Routinely, a bettor will find -110 lines on spread and moneyline wagers, but in Montana, the lines regularly showed depressed payoffs with bets going as high as -135. If a bettor cannot find a way to make a profit over time, they will not place wagers with the sportsbook because they are destined to lose money.
If the coronavirus outbreak did not happen, chances were high that D.C had their app ready to go by the start of March Madness. While it is hard to know exactly what the district lost due to the cancellation of the tourney, we can look at other states and make an educated guess.
In Las Vegas, for example, the loss of March Madness cost bookmakers at least $300 million in direct handle and additional hundreds of millions in lost room rentals, entertainment, and food and drink purchases.
Some gaming experts say that the tournament could have created headaches for bettors as operators rushed to get their apps running in time for March Madness, but projections by the city clocked betting revenue for the year around $7.6 million for 2020.
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