- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2019

Monumental Sports and Entertainment has partnered with British betting and gaming company William Hill to open a sportsbook inside Capital One Arena — the first on-site sportsbook at a professional sports venue in the U.S.

The move also made William Hill the exclusive sports betting partner of the Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics, the three main teams Monumental owns.

Monumental founder and CEO Ted Leonsis, long a vocal proponent of legalized sports betting, said he wants to be a leader in bringing the activity out of the unregulated shadows and “into the sunlight” for everyone’s gain.

“We will try to integrate everything that William Hill can bring to this industry within our arena, really for the benefit of our fans,” Leonsis said. “We are trying to make a broad statement here that data and gaming and interactivity is very, very good for our industry. It will be great for the players. It will be great for the league and for our media partners.”

The William Hill Sportsbook at Capital One Arena, as it was called at a press conference Thursday, will occupy the space that formerly housed a Greene Turtle restaurant on 6th and F streets. It cannot open until it passes regulatory approvals from the District government.

Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill U.S., said they’d like to open sometime in 2020, but neither he nor Leonsis see a reason to hurry.

“I don’t know how long this is going to take,” Leonsis said. “I’m not rushing the city. William Hill is not rushing the city. However they want us to do this in the light of day, that’s how we will do it.”

In May 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law known as PASPA that limited sports betting to Nevada, effectively allowing states to decide the matter for themselves. The D.C. Council voted in December to legalize sports betting, but there’s currently an injunction against the government over the no-bid contract it struck with the gambling management company Intralot.

Leonsis said Monumental will not see any of the money William Hill generates from bets nor have any influence on setting odds. The financial gain for Monumental lies in the rent William Hill will pay to use the Greene Turtle storefront and any advertising space William Hill decides to purchase.

But Leonsis believes it is still a financial win-win for everyone involved — constructing and operating the sportsbook will create jobs, the bets will create tax revenue and the rent revenues will help Monumental’s bottom line.

Fans will be able to place bets both at a physical kiosk in the sportsbook or on William Hill’s mobile app, which will only be available for users are inside the arena.

“It creates one more reason for folks to actually go to the game versus sitting home and watching on TV or watching it in the sports bar,” Asher said.
William Hill also partnered with the NBA this week; the company will be able to use official NBA betting data in their operations.

The sportsbook will be open year-round, not just for Wizards or Capitals home games and not just at night.

“This is the most global of cities,” Leonsis said, “and we would like to see at lunchtime people from the community coming in and watching soccer matches from around the world and things happening in India — cricket and the like — and be able to eat, watch and to be able to bet.”

For now, Asher said the next step is to wait until they’re able to apply for a license. Then it will be up to the D.C. lottery to approve it. But there’s a chance that before the new NHL or NBA season is over, Capitals and Wizards fans could be able to head to home games and take a detour to the sportsbook before taking their seats.

If the model becomes a success, it could usher in other sports arenas opening sportsbooks as well. Leonsis, a potential trailblazer in this scenario, knows what’s at stake.

“We will follow every rule that you want,” he said he told the D.C. Council. “William Hill is working very, very closely with (the council). I understand the scrutiny that we will receive, and we will do things in a measured, professional way.”

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