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DC criticized after problem gambling funding stripped from 2024 budget


Washington DC authorities have stripped problem gambling services funding from the proposed budget for 2024 despite an obligation to dedicate betting industry revenue towards addiction prevention.

The proposed 2024 Department of Behavioral Health budget shows that no money has been requested for preventing and combating gambling addiction. In the previous three years, $200,000 was approved for services although no money was ever actually spent.

Under the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act of 2018, the first $200,000 in revenue collected from the sports betting industry “shall be used to fund programs through the Department of Behavioral Health to prevent, treat, and research gambling addiction”. Anything more than $200,000 raised annually is to be divided equally between the Early Childhood Development and Neighborhood Safety and Engagement funds.

Criticized by industry

American Gaming Association (AGA) senior vice-president Chris Cylke claimed the district has failed to meet its obligations in what is its latest “misstep” on gambling.

Cylke said in a statement: “Unfortunately, this is only the latest misstep by the DC Government in their effort to offer a viable legal sports betting market. The AGA will work with other stakeholders to ensure the district makes good on their obligation to provide problem gambling resources, as well as continue to highlight the need for a competitive mobile marketplace that will increase revenue to fund these important commitments.”

The AGA statement comes after Sports Betting Alliance’s Jeremy Kudon submitted testimony to DC’s Committee on Health on March 30 to state its support for problem gambling funds in the District.

The AGA and other industry stakeholders have been critical of a number of decisions relating to DC’s gambling framework, most notably the no-bid contract handed to Intralot to operate the only district-wide sports betting app, GambetDC.

Gambet woes

Last year, a council meeting in Washington DC saw Gambet branded as a “failed operation” after the sports betting monopoly failed to bring in its projected revenue. At a meeting on July 13, DC council chairperson Kenyan McDuffie said that Gambet’s issues were present from the time of launch.

“Since its launch in 2020, DC’s sports wagering program has experienced repeated operational challenges,” said McDuffie. “The challenges directly contributed to delays in getting retail locations up and running, as well as the inability to generate a robust customer base for the district’s mobile app, Gambet DC.”

DC’s sports betting handle in February amounted to $12.6m, down 34.0% from $19.1m in February 2022 and also 21.9% behind $18.5m in January of this year. Gross gaming revenue for the month reached $1.2m, which was 62.0% ahead of $740,552 in the same month last year.

A report published by the Responsible Gambling Collaborative in January 2020 showed multiple US states were not using dedicated funds for problem gambling issues.