William Hill Opens First Arena-Based Sportsbook

The Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. is dark these days—no hockey, no basketball and no concerts, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But on August 3, some light penetrated the darkness when William Hill U.S. opened a temporary sportsbook inside the arena, the first of its kind in the country. A permanent sportsbook could be in operation by late November.

“We always had a vision of a fully operational sportsbook,” said Jim Van Stone, president of business operations and chief marketing officer for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Washington Wizards NBA team and Washington Capitals NHL team.

The temporary book will welcome bettors from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. There won’t be any seating, just one line for the seven betting windows and one line for the nine kiosks at the box office. TVs above the betting windows will display the odds and point spreads for pro and college sports, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The permanent sportsbook will include a restaurant, bar and the obligatory walls of televisions. That two-story space expects to be open 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day, with access to F Street and the arena, Dave Grolman, president of retail operations for William Hill U.S., told GGB News.

“We’ll have great lounge seating up on the second floor, and we hope that the restaurant itself will serve as a first-class restaurant, not just a place where’d you go to get wings,” he said. “During game days and certain in-arena events, ticketed and non-ticketed fans will have access to the sportsbook.”

Complexes like the Capital One Arena can cost billions to develop and are dark a lot of the time. The sportsbook will take the arena from a four-hour location on game days to a 365-day destination, whether the Wizards or Springsteen are in the house or not. “It’s a destination that brings many more people to the complex,” Van Stone said.

American Wagering Inc., the Las Vegas-based William Hill subsidiary, partnered with Capital One Arena on the sportsbook.

“Our experience and brand recognition is what fans trust and seek out when placing bets on their favorite teams and players,” Grolman said. “We’re excited to bring that experience to the District. For William Hill, it’s about the relationship with Monumental Sports and being first in the marketplace.”

The arena hosts around 230 events a year. While the sportsbook will keep a presence in the building every day, arena officials expect to be more than passive landlords for the sportsbook.

“We want to really take advantage. We’ll work with William Hill to create new opportunities,” Van Stone said. Those opportunities may involve broadcasting Premier League games on Saturday and Sunday morning.

Success at Capital One should open up opportunities elsewhere, but don’t expect a similar setup in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, as neither market can legally put a sportsbook into a venue like the Capital One Arena. The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia has a gaming lounge, but no betting windows or kiosks are included in those spaces.

Illinois is a different story.

Under the Illinois Sports Wagering Act, master sports wagering licenses are available to as many as seven sports facilities with a seating capacity of over 17,000 persons. The decision to permit sportsbooks at sports facilities was a public policy determination made by the Illinois General Assembly, said Gene O’Shea, a spokesman for the state gaming board.

Once licensed, such venues may operate sports wagering kiosks or wagering windows inside the arena or stadium or at a location within five blocks of the facility.

Wrigley Field and United Center in Chicago have considered putting sportsbooks on site or near the venues, multiple sources told ESPN.

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