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PARLAY: In-arena Bookmaker at Georgetown’s Home Court

Temporary kiosks have been set up, but watch the former Greene Turtle space.

Detroit Red Wings v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Kente One Arena (also known as Capital One Arena to some) is pushing forward on their side bet with bookmaker William Hill to host D.C.’s only live-in-person-betting sportsbook. It will also be the nation’s first in-arena sportsbook. For now, only kiosks appear, but a first-rate bar/restaurant sportsbook venue is expected in the fall and built in the old space of the Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Grille.

While the kiosks and teller windows may not affect Georgetown Hoyas fans quite yet, having a gambling parlor in your home arena is a rather unique position for professional sports, let alone a college basketball program.

Student accessibility to Chinatown, mid-week game attendance issues, and excruciatingly long security lines have been the biggest topics regarding the arena that GU alumnus Ted Leonsis and Monumental Sports “rent” to Georgetown basketball. Now, in-arena gambling takes a prominent position in potential discussions of rules and safety. Still, with the expected bar/restaurant, having another top-notch venue in the arena to celebrate Hoya wins and keep watching multiple basketball games sounds like a winner to most.

Joe Asher, William Hill’s chief executive, told The Washington Post to expect William Hill’s “full complement of wagers” and an experience “similar to what you’d get in Las Vegas.” Aiming for the fall, due to construction hold-ups from coronavirus issues, William Hill is building a Vegas-style sportsbook with bars, a restaurant, and the requisite ginormous televisions.

David Grolman, president of retail operations for William Hill U.S. explained to ESPN that the permanent sportsbook will be a two-story space and “It’ll be what I think is the most immersive sportsbook-restaurant experience anywhere the country,” with plenty of “TVs obviously throughout, great lounge seating up on the second floor.” Grolman conveyed that they hope the restaurant will be a first-class restaurant and “not just a place where’d you go to get wings.” Also noteworthy was ESPN saying that “It will be open during professional games once teams return to their home venue,” but it seems counterproductive to assume that “amateur” basketball would dim the Vegas-style lights on the sportsbook.

For now, the arena’s box office ticket windows and several electronic kiosks are set up as a make-shift betting parlor, apparently open every day from 11 AM until 11 PM. NBC Washington reported that the entrance is “inside the box office off F Street NW at the corner of 6th Street.” Remember, the only safe bet is wearing a mask.

The Capital One Arena and William Hill sportsbook has a bit of a monopoly in town for now, and really only competes with online betting and Maryland casinos.

In mid-July, in a keynote address at SBC Digital Summit North America, Zach Leonsis, SVP Strategic Initiatives at Monumental Sports Entertainment, said that “We have a unique opportunity. Typically sportsbooks are housed within casino properties and casinos aren’t legal in Washington DC. They are in Maryland and you can drive 30 minutes across the state line to MGM National Harbor for example.”

Zach Leonsis, a Georgetown MBA alumnus, also spoke directly on hours for the sportsbook and potentially opening the lower concourse when there’s no game:

We think there’s an opportunity to keep this book open during regular business hours from 9 until late in the evening. And outside of live games we think there’s also an opportunity to flex into our arena potentially into the lower bowl for example.

We envision one day, post-pandemic of course, when you can get several thousand people in to watch an NFL Sunday together or a Saturday morning Premier League match or a big pay-per-view boxing or UFC event and enjoy putting 20 bucks down on the match and enjoying dinner and beers with a few friends. There’s something very special about the energy of a crowd and being together.

We’ll see how this all turns out—and how it affects the Hoyas.

No word on whether wagers on the noble sport of horse racing will be an option.