Washington Arena to Offer Hockey, Hoops and Sports Betting

by Administrator

The Capital One Arena in Washington will be the first major team pro sports facility in the United States to have a sports betting parlor, officials announced Thursday.

Betting kiosks in stadiums are common in many countries, but have yet to start appearing in the United States, which has long had stricter laws that have effectively barred sports gambling in most states.

But recent legal changes, including a United States Supreme Court ruling last year that allowed states to legalize sports betting, have opened up new markets. And as more states authorize gambling, taking bets in an arena where a game is going on has become part of the wider debate.

William Hill, which runs betting parlors all around Britain, will operate the Washington facility. “We rent to McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts and now William Hill,” said Ted Leonsis, the chief executive of Monumental Sports, which owns the arena and its two main tenants, the Wizards of the N.B.A. and the Capitals of the N.H.L.

It is not yet clear when Washington fans will be able to start pushing dollar bills through a betting window. “I don’t really have a good feel for how long that might take,” said Joe Asher, the chief executive of William Hill U.S. “You would bet on sometime in 2020. We’ll let the regulatory process play out.”

Thorny issues that process might raise include whether betting could continue during college games involving Georgetown, which also calls the arena home. The N.C.A.A. has been strongly against sports betting over the years, and has not softened its stance toward lawmakers to the same degree as the N.B.A. and the N.H.L.

It is possible that the authorities will require the parlor to be shut during games, although Asher opposed that, calling it a “poor fan experience.” Even without the lounge, fans could continue to bet on a mobile app. Officials said they expected to use location tracking technology to ensure that fans could use only the William Hill app, not its competitors, when inside the arena.

Gambling divides the public, and there has often been opposition to expansion of it on many grounds. For many years, the major professional sports leagues were, like the N.C.A.A., virulently against sports gambling.

The parlor would be “great for the arena, great for the league,” Leonsis said. He noted that he had visited William Hill parlors in Britain and “there’s nothing untoward or unfriendly about it.”

In more recent times, Adam Silver of the N.B.A. has been seen as a gambling friendly sports commissioner, dating to 2014 when he wrote an opinion column for The New York Times urging legalization. He noted at the time, “In England, for example, a sports bet can be placed on a smartphone, at a stadium kiosk or even using a television remote control.”

The parlor at the Washington arena would be open every day, not just during games. It would also stay open after games for fans to bet on West Coast action.

“It’s not like gambling isn’t happening in an unregulated world,” Leonsis said. “There’s a lot of gambling today off the books, that’s not creating jobs.”

He also emphasized the statistical side of gambling and likened placing a bet to buying a stock. Of the word “gambling,” he said: “I hate that term. We want this to be the beginning of a highly reasoned, highly rational experience.” (For years, casinos have eschewed the term for describing betting in many forms, preferring the euphemism “gaming.”)

Officials said bets offered at the parlor could include a wide range of sports, including overseas events like soccer and cricket. They also could include in-game betting, a fast kind of action that continues even after a game starts.

Leonsis said he also thought wagering would help women’s sports “because the level of engagement increases.”

A year ago, the New Jersey Devils announced that they would have the first in-arena gambling parlor. But Washington authorities noted that facility doesn’t actually take bets, but rather offers William Hill officials to help fans download its app. Last year, Dover Downs in Delaware began accepting bets on a NASCAR race held at the adjoining track.