Bettors lined up outside Capital One Arena on Monday morning, waiting for the ceremonial opening to wrap up so they could start wagering on the professional sports happening that night.
Without sporting events happening inside, the box office area along F Street at Capital One Arena has sat dormant. But now, instead of forking over cash to get a ticket to a game, sports fans can go to the same windows and fork over cash for a betting ticket, with the hopes of winning money.
William Hill US has turned the Capital One Arena box office area into a temporary sportsbook. Bettors can’t watch games inside, but there are windows and kiosks there taking cash bets. Those placing bets can be in and out in a matter of minutes.
The temporary concept came together in only about a month’s time.
“We said, ‘Hey, you know what? All three major sports are coming back,'” said Dave Grolman, president of retail operations at William Hill US. “‘What if we did a temporary book here at Capital One?'”
The ceremonial first bets were made by fans of the local teams: David Feldman, whose family has had Washington Capitals season tickets since they first took the ice; David Dwornik, who brought his ticket from the first Bullets game ever played at the Capitol Centre; and Angela Tilghman, a Washington Mystics fan. All three bet on their favorite teams, making bets from the heart.
Once they were done, other people started coming in to bet on the various sports in action, using terms such as “parlay” and “money line.” Those words mean a lot to some people, but to others, it can be confusing. To help out, staffers are available and there are also informational pamphlets.
“If you’ve never come into a sportsbook before, it can be a bit nerve wracking,” said Grolman, who said the first time he bet on a ballgame, he got ridiculed by the teller for not using the right terminology. “I’ll never forget that, and we make sure that the same thing won’t happen here.”
At the kiosks on Monday, there was someone standing by to assist, and in one case, a man could be seen helping a bettor figure out exactly what he wanted to wager on. Another person was hovering around with a spray bottle of disinfectant cleaner and a rag, giving each machine a quick clean after someone was through making a bet.
This temporary setup is expected to be in place until late November, when a bigger, two-story facility opens next door to the box office in the space that used to be occupied by the Greene Turtle.
William Hill’s mobile app is also expected to be in operation in about a month, allowing bettors one more way to put money down, this time without having to use cash. However, those making bets will be limited to a small area around Capital One Arena.
Still, with so many seasoned bettors unhappy with the odds they get from D.C.’s Gambet app, which can be used citywide, it might provide some competition.
Grolman said that frustration had nothing to do with the creation of this temporary sportsbook.
“What we’ve seen around the country is folks were anxious to start betting on sports again,” he said.
Now is usually considered a slow time of year for sports, with only baseball on the schedule.
“You have this great time with basketball, baseball and the Stanley Cup going on,” Grolman said.