William Hill Inaugurates First-Ever US Sportsbook to Operate From Sports Arena

  • The betting facility opened at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday
  • The 18,000-square-foot William Hill Sportsbook will open 365 days a year and has 100+ screens
  • Bettors can access the retail sportsbook from the street or from the stadium itself
  • A temporary sportsbook was previously operating at the Capital One Arena during the pandemic
  • The Washington Nationals plan to open a BetMGM sportsbook at the nearby Nationals Park
facade of the Capital One Arena in Washington, DC
The opening of the William Hill Sportsbook at the Capital One Arena marks the first betting venue to be housed inside a US sports arena. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A landmark opening

The William Hill Sportsbook at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. is now open for business, being the first betting facility to open inside a sports arena in the United States.

The Wednesday launch in the home of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals was marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony:

The William Hill Sportsbook is 18,000 square feet in size, encompasses two stories, and will open 365 days a year. It has more than 100 television screens, houses a horseshoe bar, and can hold 764 people. Gamblers can place bets at almost 20 betting windows or through one of the dozen self-service kiosks. A modern broadcast studio on-site will host the By the Book sports betting show. Michelin star chef Nicholas Stefanelli is providing the concept for the facility’s restaurant.

what sports’ future should look and feel like”

Monumental Sports & Entertainment is the owner of franchises like the Washington Mystics, Wizards, and Capitals. According to the Washington Post, Monumental owner and CEO Ted Leonsis said of the new facility: “It looks and feels like what sports’ future should look and feel like: lots of data, lots of comfortable settings, lots of televisions, lots of ways to learn about gaming.”

Easy access for bettors

William Hill has a ten-year lease on the Capital One Arena sportsbook. Now owned by Caesars Entertainment following a recent merger, William Hill is one of the biggest sportsbook operators in the US.

While Monumental Sports does not have a direct financial interest in the betting side of the sportsbook, it will get a cut of the food and drink purchases.

The new facility is accessible from both the arena and the street. While the sportsbook is still awaiting approval from the NHL to allow people to enter the facility during games, fans already have the green light to enter the sportsbook during NBA fixtures. They will also be able to place bets from their stadium seats via the William Hill mobile app.

A change of stance

Following the launch of the Capital One Arena sportsbook, Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg said: “This feels very natural to be in this building and to be able to walk into the arena and into a venue like this, to place bets, and I think you’re going to see this continue throughout the country.” He also referred to the “breath-taking” change over recent years in the stance that sports teams and owners have in relation to sports betting.

Most major sports leagues were against legalizing the activity. In a 2017 news conference, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke about how the league and team owners strongly opposed legal sports betting. However, the US Supreme Court voted to end the federal ban in May 2018.

Since then, most major sports leagues in the US have embraced sports betting. The NFL itself has signed sports betting partnerships with Caesars, FanDuel, and DraftKings.

Teams embracing sports betting

Monumental Sports & Entertainment initially partnered with William Hill in October 2019. Last summer, William Hill opened a temporary sportsbook in the ticket lobby of the Capital One Arena to allow bettors to place wagers at kiosks. This was in operation while the permanent facility was under construction.

pop-up sportsbook still generated handle of over $100m

Despite a lot of local businesses being closed and the arena not getting much use during the COVID-19 pandemic, the pop-up sportsbook still generated handle of over $100m.

It appears that the Capital One Arena will not be the sole in-stadium sportsbook in the district for too long. In January this year, the Washington Nationals revealed plans to launch a BetMGM sportsbook at the nearby Nationals Park. The team was originally hoping to open the sportsbook this summer, but it has not disclosed a definitive opening date as of yet.

The DC Lottery’s GambetDC is the sole online sportsbook that can cater to a districtwide audience in Washington, D.C. Major stadiums, such as the Capital One Arena, are able to partner with other sportsbook operators. This allows them to open an in-stadium retail sportsbook and an online sportsbook that is operational within a two-block radius of the facility.

Casino giant Caesars also recently signed a partnership with the MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks. This will provide the operator with access to the online sports betting market in Arizona, in addition to getting sponsorship opportunities. It will also allow for the creation of a retail sportsbook in an area across the street from the team’s home stadium.

The New Jersey Devils have a betting lounge at the Prudential Center in Newark. Here, bettors can just view odds in the lounge and then place wagers through a mobile app. This is because in-person betting is only permitted at the state’s racetracks and casinos, meaning this lounge does not count as an in-stadium retail sportsbook.