Capitalizing On The Moment: Capital One Arena Launches Temporary William Hill Sportsbook

Posted on August 3, 2020 - Last Updated on September 30, 2020

Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, might not be the site of any Washington Capitals, Mystics or Wizards games right now, but that doesn’t mean the venue is completely devoid of activity. As a matter of fact, the Capital One Arena just made history.

On Friday, William Hill launched seven betting windows and nine kiosks in the arena’s box office. It’s a ground-breaking development for the sports wagering industry in the United States.

Details on William Hill Sportsbook at Capital One Arena

Personnel in the box office at the arena are now selling a different kind of ticket. Washington, DC, residents and visitors can now place cash wagers there.

In so doing, Capital One Arena becomes the first sports venue to house a sportsbook in US history. It’s quite remarkable because just over two years ago, the NBA and NHL were parties to a lawsuit seeking to keep sports betting illegal. Now you can bet on Capitals games and Wizards games right in the arena.

Monumental Sports has planned to open a William Hill-branded book at the arena since last October. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it became uncertain when that would happen.

The box office won’t be the final resting place of the book; however, it is a great fit for now. The ticketing area includes ready-made betting windows and the lobby has all the necessary infrastructure to house kiosks.

Additionally, the Plexiglas barrier acts as a natural buffer between bettors and personnel for coronavirus purposes. Since the Mystics and Wizards are back in action with the Capitals soon to follow, this seems like the obvious play.

For DC bettors, this makeshift book might become the obvious play as well. The only other legal option in the District leaves much to be desired.

William Hill DC might be the best option for bettors

Right now, the William Hill site is the only legal brick-and-mortar sportsbook in DC. There will be more, like Handle 19, but it’s one of only two legal options available.

The other legal option is Intralot’s online sportsbook that operates under the auspice of the DC Lottery, GambetDC. The app and website launched in what would have been the midst of March Madness, but then the pandemic happened.

Over the past four months, reviews have been far from sparkling. Just like with Intralot’s product in Montana, lines haven’t been competitive. For example, the moneylines on both sides of markets tend to be worse.

Despite the inconvenience of having to visit the arena to place a wager, William Hill’s superior odds could act as a sufficient incentive to make the trip. At the same time, it’s possible that William Hill’s entry into the market, if only on a retail basis, could give Intralot cause to make its odds more competitive.

Regardless of what happens in DC, the book’s launch at Capital One could have ramifications in Illinois. Arenas like Soldier Field and the United Center may follow Capital One’s lead.

Capital One might be the first in a sequence

Law in Illinois also allows stadiums with capacities of at least 17,000 to obtain sportsbook master licenses. The law gives those operators a five-block exclusivity zone as well.

Such a license comes with a hefty price tag of $10 million, however. That, and the uncertain nature of domestic sports amid the pandemic, may be why the owners of facilities like Soldier Field and the United Center haven’t taken any action on this front yet.

Yet, Capital One’s format may act as a blueprint for those companies now. As the parties aren’t collecting any event revenue right now, operating a sportsbook out of the box office could provide some income.

That won’t happen quickly, regardless of its practicality. The stadiums’ owners have yet to apply for licenses, figure out the management of the book, and sort out whether that five-block exclusivity zone applies to online as well as retail wagering.

If the temporary book proves popular in DC, that may make Illinois stadium owners keener to make it happen. Regardless of how far it spreads, Capital One Arena will always be where it happened first.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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