There has never been a sportsbook located in a stadium or arena in the United States, but that could change as early as this year.
Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals, announced on Wednesday that he plans to add a sportsbook inside the Capital One Arena — the first-ever in the US.
The Leonsis-owned Monumental Sports & Entertainment bought out the lease for The Greene Turtle three years early, which will now be converted to a brick-and-mortar sportsbook on the bottom floor of the stadium when Washington DC officially launches sports betting.
“There will be a sportsbook inside the building accessible from the outside and depending on the league and depending on the event, it might be accessible from the inside as well,” Leonsis said.
Even though placing a wager from inside a stadium or arena is something you can already do via apps on your mobile device, sportsbooks have always been separate from the sports venue since questions of integrity naturally begin to arise.
However, Leonsis said he intends to partner with a third-party organization to help carry out his vision for the future of legal sports betting in the US and stated that maintaining integrity is of utmost importance to him.
“I don’t think people are going to come to us and say, ‘The guy missed a 3-point shot, I didn’t cover the spread,’” Leonsis said. “We need to find a partner that says, ‘Yes, that’s what we want to do too and not just want to do the cookie cutter and do what has always been done.’”
Leonsis has long been an advocate of responsible gambling and has even invested in several well-known state-licensed sportsbook operators, such as DraftKings.
When asked about the potential problems that could arise from putting a sportsbook in Capital One Arena, Leonsis said that hiding from the reality of sports betting becoming legal in the District of Columbia and remaining complacent out of fear is not ideal, and that the key is to try to eliminate any causes for concern before launching and then immediately addressing any that arise after the launch of the sportsbook.
“You can’t hide your head in the sand,” said Leonsis. “When we were building chat rooms and instant messaging (at AOL), we never thought they a foreign government would be able to try to influence an election.”
In February 2019, the DC Council voted for the final time to approve of the legalization of sports betting within the nation’s capital, joining several states that have launched state-licensed sportsbooks following a Supreme Court decision to lift the federal ban on states crafting sports betting legislation.