At Capital One Arena, the old Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille will become a sportsbook and restaurant. (Courtesy Monumental Sports & Entertainment)
As some states work out sports wagering laws, arenas and stadiums make plans
The sports betting landscape is gradually taking shape across the arena and stadium industry.
One year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act, teams and facilities are working through all the regulations of their respective states and leagues. For those whose states make sports wagering legal, they want to be ready to capitalize on a new revenue source and offer a new amenity for their fans.
To date, 11 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting with various restrictions, depending on the state. In Washington, the district approved the measure in December, allowing four sports venues to develop sports books — Capital One Arena, Nationals Park, Audi Field and St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena, a WNBA and G League venue. Those buildings fall under the Class A designation for sports betting venues in Washington. The licenses to run sports books cost $250,000 under a five-year agreement.
Capital One Arena is on its way to becoming the first to offer sports betting in a brick-and-mortar space. Ted Leonsis, CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the owner of Capital One Arena and its two tenants, the NBA’s Wizards and the NHL’s Capitals, announced a plan in March to develop a sportsbook at the 20,356-seat facility.
If everything falls into place, which includes signing a gaming partner to run the book, officials hope to have it operating at the start of the NHL season in early October, said Jim Van Stone, Monumental Sports’ president of business operations and chief commercial officer.
“We’ve been knee deep in this process and supportive of the ruling from the very beginning,” Van Stone said.
“A year ago we did 230 events, and if we can build something that has the capacity to make this a 365-day-a-year destination, it will be fantastic for our community and our fans,” he said. “It will become a tourist destination for people visiting Washington.”
The project will transform the old Greene Turtle sports bar, a two-level facility on the arena’s southeast corner, into a sportsbook open year-round with a high-end restaurant on the ground floor. The 25,000-square-foot space is accessible from the street and the culinary experience will feature an award-winning chef, he said.
Monumental Sports could not comment on construction costs “until we sort a few things out on our end,” company spokesperson Jodi Fick said.
Under sports betting law in Washington, administered by the district’s newly rebranded Office of Lottery and Gaming, Monumental Sports is prohibited from running the sports book and must use a third party to operate the space.
Monumental Sports in the final stages of negotiations with a gaming partner to manage the book and hopes to sign a deal by midsummer. Van Stone would not identify the firm but said, “it’s important to have a partner with deals in both leagues” that the arena’s major tenants play in, in order to maintain consistency with the operation.
MGM Resorts International and FanDuel now have deals with both the NBA and the NHL. MGM National Harbor, MGM’s nearby resort, has its name on a VIP lounge that opened for the 2018-19 season.
“We’ve worked with the leagues in terms of what we’re looking to put together,” Van Stone said. “We’re bullish to potentially be the first organization to have (a sportsbook) that’s tied to the arena itself.”
Monumental Sports is analyzing revenue projections and should have a better idea on those numbers after signing a deal with a gaming firm, which will be a combination of a lease agreement and a sponsorship, he said.
In turn, the sportsbook operator would hire the food provider for the space and sign an architect to design the facility. Aramark, Capital One Arena’s concessionaire, will not be involved in the project, Van Stone said.
Gensler designed $40 million in upgrades to Capital One Arena, which were completed last year, but the architect has not been selected to develop the sportsbook, said Ryan Sickman, a principal and leader of its sports practice in Washington.
“It’s one of those things where it’s another offering,” Sickman said. “All of a sudden, it’s as great as a bachelor party in Vegas. If the guys want to get together on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament and don’t have to leave town now, it’s a completely different experience.”
In Pennsylvania, where sports betting was legalized in late 2017 and activated after the Supreme Court ruling, the rules are different. Sports betting has been restricted to casinos that pay a hefty $10 million license fee to run a sportsbook.
In May, mobile betting at sports venues was close to being approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The board plans to test an online sportsbook at one of the state’s two Major League Baseball stadiums, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia or PNC Park in Pittsburgh, according to local reports.
The Philadelphia Union of the MLS are among the state’s big league teams keeping a close eye on the issue and have a few casino sponsorships in place pending league approval.
Jean-Paul Dardenne, the Union’s senior vice president of corporate partnerships, has made a few trips to Las Vegas to learn about sports betting and make sure “when the time comes we’re ahead of the curve,” he said.
“We’re the counterpunchers,” he said, “so I wanted to make sure I got a better understanding and got in front of people before the other teams with many years of history got involved.”
The Union are surrounded by gaming entities. Talen Energy Stadium, where the Union play their home matches, sits less than three miles from Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack along the Delaware River.
Twenty percent of the Union’s fan base comes from New Jersey, which last year became the first state to activate sports betting, and some of those fans already bet on Union games through mobile apps in Jersey, Dardenne said.
The Delaware River, next to the stadium, divides the states, and “if you go halfway across the bridge you can bet on a mobile app,” he said. “Going the other way toward us, the app shuts down. We’re also five miles from Delaware, which has sports betting at the racetracks.”
The Union have no plans to develop a brick-and-mortar betting space. Officials see mobile betting as a greater asset that brings sports books to more teams, Dardenne said.
“We’re known for our game-day experience, and if done right, we could do some fun activations tied to sports betting that’s not necessarily wagering dollar bills … things like who’s going to win the coin toss that gives someone a chance to win a jersey or a food voucher,” he said.
Sports architect Scott Radecic thinks it makes better sense to take a multiplatform approach toward sports betting, given states’ restrictions. Radecic, founder and senior principal at Populous and director of its NFL market, is working with two big league teams to design sports betting spaces on public concourses and in premium areas. He declined to identify the teams.
“Some teams want to do mobile betting and that varies by sport and what you can bet on and by state regulations,” Radecic said. “We also expect that people could bet in a more traditional way at a window or kiosk. There’s no one solution. It’s going to depend on how states write their legislation and the team owner’s philosophy and which role the league plays. There’s a series of steps to walk through before we know which offering to provide for patrons for sports betting. It’s still in its infancy.”