Sports betting roundup: D.C. fans welcome a new gambling home

Jay Dieffenbach

Sportsbook operator William Hill and Monumental Sports executives celebrated the opening of a 20,000-square-foot sportsbook inside Capital One Arena in Washington D.C.

The arena won the race last Wednesday to become the first U.S. pro sports venue containing a sportsbook.

Monumental Sports, owned by Ted Leonsis, counts the city’s NBA’s Wizards, the WNBA’s Mystics, the NHL’s Capitals and other teams as assets and leased the space to William Hill on a 10-year contract.

“I think we should be utilizing more of this space,” Leonsis said in a Washington Post story. “Because when you go into it, 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.”

Cities including Phoenix are following a similar plan, with a sportsbook inside Phoenix Suns Arena targeted to open this fall. And baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks plan to partner with an operator to open a sportsbook downtown, across the street from their ballpark.

“We really think this is going to be a model for these types of experiences inside professional sports arenas,” said Dan Shapiro, William Hill’s vice president of strategy and business development.

The brick-and-mortar facility allows access from the street or by Wizards fans attending games at the arena – they can visit the sportsbook while events are in progress and return to their seats.

Wizards fans able to come and go during games without leaving the building, starting with Saturday’s home playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers. The NHL’s Capitals, though, do not yet allow fans the same autonomy. The league has not yet approved entry and exit during hockey games, but officials from Monumental and William Hill are eyeing approval by the beginning of next season.

During his comments last Wednesday, Leonsis called the sportsbook “the first step in reinvention of the role that arenas play in the community, in the city.”

Tom Reeg, the CEO of William Hill’s parent company, Caesars, touted the “groundbreaking moment.”

“Everyone is watching what we want to accomplish as kind of a harbinger of, what can you be putting in your business?” Leonsis said last Monday in the Post. “What can you be putting in your arena to benefit the fans, benefit the city, create jobs?”

The two-story, 764-person-capacity space boasts 100 screens, 17 betting windows and a dozen betting kiosks.

The Post described the interior:

A board of odds and point spreads is displayed behind a counter where bets can be placed. A staircase leads to the second-floor lounge and restaurant, for which William Hill hired local chef Nick Stefanelli, known primarily for his Michelin-starred Masseria in Northeast Washington.

In January, the Nationals of Major League Baseball announced plans to open a sportsbook at Nationals Park, in partnership with BetMGM.

Massachusetts lawmakers leave sports betting legislation off the budget

The interest in sports gambling is certainly prominent, but the road to legalization is proving to be tough to navigate.

The state Senate budget proposal as well as the House did not include sports betting in spite of several amendments trying to add it. The Senate also declined to add sports betting to last year’s late budget.

There is still time for the state to join the momentum, given the legislative session runs through Jan. 4, 2022.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, among the stronger sports wagering supporters, saw his sports betting amendment rejected on its own. His amendment legalized retail and online sports betting but would have prohibited all betting on college sports.

Sen. Paul Feeney‘s amendment was also rejected, though he allowed college sports betting with the exception of wagers on schools based in Massachusetts.

Standalone legislation remains a possibility as Massachusetts tries to join most states in New England with sports betting by the end of the year.

Of the neighboring states, citing by Legal Sports Report:

  • Connecticut sports betting is approved waiting on the federal OK. The plan is to be live for the NFL season.
  • New York, despite the bumpy road traveled as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers wrangle the details, is likely to be in full operation by next February.
  • New Hampshire, which began taking sports bets in December 2019, is rolling along with more than $500 million in handle. The state maintains an exclusive agreement with DraftKings.
  • Rhode Island is enjoying the benefits after helping the out-of-state bettors by legalizing remote registration last summer.

A report from the Boston Herald detailed the Massachusetts landscape:

Senators rejected roughly half of the amendments proposed, including one by Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, which would have legalized sports betting bringing $30 million to $50 million in new revenue to the state. While the governor and dozens of lawmakers in both chambers have expressed support sports gambling — now legal in more than 20 states — numerous bills have died in the Legislature.

The policy proposal still has life this session, however, more than a dozen stand-alone pieces of legislation would legalize sports betting.

Nevada sees a predictable April slump

Proving the most famous U.S. state for gambling is not immune to the natural order of the sports calendar, Nevada’s April sports gambling revenues fell 29 percent from March.

As the states with legalized sports betting reported their respective April numbers, the trend was clearly a familiar one.

For most of those states, and particularly Nevada, the statistics were no surprise, given that March’s numbers were driven – to the tune of 80% — by basketball’s signature college event, the men’s tournament.

Handle was 454.7 million for the month of April.

The numbers reflected the growing trend in mobile sports betting, which comprised 65.3% of handle, up 5% from March.

The leading sports in the Silver State, by handle:

Basketball, with $181.1 million bet and $8.6 million in revenue.

Baseball, with $163.7 million wagered and $14.1 million in revenue.

Hockey, helped out by the run to the playoffs by the hometown Vegas Golden Knights, accounted for $45.6 million in bets.

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