The William Hill Sportsbook opened Wednesday at the Capital One Arena in Washington, marking the first sportsbook to operate in a U.S. arena.
The development shows the “breathtaking” change in the relationship between sports leagues and team ownership and sports betting in recent years, said Tom Reeg, CEO of Caesars Entertainment.
Other sports owners are closely monitoring whether a similar model can be used in their arena.
“It feels very natural to be in this building and be able to walk into the arena and a venue like this, place bets, and I think you’ll see this going on across the country,” Reeg said, in an interview with CNBC.
Smack in the middle of the nation’s power center, the two-story, 18,000-square-foot venue will serve as a 365-days-a-year destination for gamblers. Gamblers have access to up to 20 betting windows and over a dozen self-service kiosks to place bets.
The Sportsbook also features a state-of-the-art broadcast studio that will host Monumental Sport’s “By the Book” sports betting show, and the new facility will host a dinner from Michelin-starred chef Nicholas Stefanelli.
In the three years since the US Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the sports world has been turned upside down. The law, also known as PASPA or the Bradley Act, banned most states from offering legal sports betting,
In 2017, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held a press conference after an owners’ meeting in Phoenix, reiterating the league’s and owners’ opposition to legalization.
“I think we’re still very much against legalized sports gambling,” Goodell said at the time. “The integrity of our game is number one. We will not compromise on that.”
Today, many of the same people who opposed sports gambling see it as a new frontier, especially as pandemic-related financial losses continue to pile up. Sports teams have also found that betting not only brings in more money, but also more engaged fans.
Monumental Sports and Entertainment owns multiple sports teams in the Washington area, including the Capitals and the Wizards. Its CEO, billionaire Ted Leonsis, has worked hard for sports leagues and owners to embrace legalized sports betting.
“You look around this Sportsbook,” Leonsis said. “It feels like day trading, right, for the millennial and Gen Z, a very highly educated, highly compensated individual who” [can] come and buy season tickets – buy tickets for thousands of dollars – to have a rooted interest in now, to be able to enter and enjoy how all this data is presented. It’s very synergistic for the leagues and teams.”
The William Hill Sportsbook is the only new business to open in downtown Washington during the pandemic, and the money it’s generated has boosted the district’s revenues.
Caesars has a growing number of sports facility businesses. The deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks gives it market access to mobile betting and exclusive sponsorship opportunities. Caesars has also entered into a multi-year agreement with Major League Baseball to authorized gaming operator of the competition, in addition to the recent deal with the National Football League.
The partnership agreements are part of a larger industry trend as professional sports leagues embrace sports betting. The National Basketball Association has made several deals with the likes of The Score, DraftKings, William Hill and MGM Resorts.
And the NFL — whose commissioner was so vehemently opposed to legalized sports betting — now has three official game partners, DraftKings, FanDuel and Caesars.
In February, the NHL added its fourth sports betting partner with PointsBet equity interest in the company.
“The reality is that you have to adapt to the way your customer wants to consume your product, and sports betting really fits where the world is now. … We want constant activity, constant action and sports betting that fits in that,” he says. Reeg.