USA.- November 29th 2019 www.zonadeazar.com D.C. United and Caesars Entertainment are deep in negotiations about opening a sportsbook at Audi Field next year, a proposal that would trigger a race among Washington’s pro teams to begin attracting bettors to their respective venues.
The talks also involve a sponsorship pact in which the gaming company’s logo would appear on the sleeve of the MLS team’s jersey, starting next season.
According to several people close to the matter, the sides are eager to open the sportsbook by the spring, which, if successful, might make the soccer stadium the first major venue in the District to launch such an operation after the D.C. Council approved legal sports betting in December 2018.
British bookmaker William Hill, in conjunction with Ted Leonsis’s Monumental Sports & Entertainment, has announced plans to operate in space at Capital One Arena in 2020. Nationals Park, Audi Field and the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast Washington also have been approved for gaming operations.
The Nationals have had a marketing partnership with MGM National Harbor since 2017 but haven’t announced plans for a gaming operation.
Richard Broome, executive vice president for communications and government relations at Caesars Entertainment, said, “We’re interested in a partnership with D.C. United, but we aren’t there yet.”
Andy Bush, United’s chief business officer, said: “We are absolutely excited about the opportunity to partner with Caesars. It would be an incredible opportunity to engage with our fans.”
Neither Broome nor Bush wanted to discuss specific details or the status of the discussions.
United would need to apply for a license from the city and pay $125,000 for a permit. The city will open the licensing application process next week.
For several weeks, contractors at the 20,000-capacity soccer venue in Southwest Washington have been working on scheduled upgrades and other renovations that would include the sportsbook, said people who requested anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss such matters.
It is unclear whether the gaming facility would occupy current space or be part of new construction on the property, which sits about two blocks from Nationals Park. Given Audi Field’s tight footprint, the size of the gaming operation probably would be smaller than one that might someday open at the ballpark.
One person who has seen United’s renderings and who asked not to be identified said the plans for the Audi Field sportsbook include a restaurant and bar and look more like a “beer garden of the future” than a traditional betting parlor. It would be open to the public every day and to ticket holders on game days.
Audi Field is also home to the D.C. Defenders of the XFL, a pro football league launching in February. The Washington Spirit, of the National Women’s Soccer League, will play four of its 12 home matches next year at Buzzard Point.
Aside from casinos and entertainment venues around the world, Caesars operates about 30 sportsbooks in seven states.
Since May 2018, when the Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning sports betting outside Nevada, states, municipalities and the business sector have explored opportunities to generate revenue through gambling on athletic events.
Bars, restaurants and other businesses in the District will be able to apply for gaming licenses as well. An online gaming application has also been proposed.
It’s unclear how much financial impact the partnership with Caesars would have on United, whose bottom line has improved markedly since it left city-run RFK Stadium. The MLS organization spent an estimated $250 million on construction costs, while the city covered up to $150 million on land acquisition and infrastructure.
The plan for the Caesars logo to appear on the right sleeve of the jersey would come in the first season of a four-year pilot program by MLS that allows teams to add a second sponsor to their uniforms.
Since 2014, Leidos, a government contractor based in the metro area, has had its logo splashed across the front of United’s uniforms. The deal, valued at $3 million annually for United, expires this winter. However, the sides are expected to extend it for multiple seasons.
The logo on the right sleeve would replace a league patch and measure about 2½ inches in both height and width.
“As our league continues to expand,” MLS executive Gary Stevenson said last year, “the visibility of the sleeve patches will be substantial.”
The logo would not appear on uniforms issued to United’s youth academy players.
MLS sponsors were given a small presence on team uniforms when the league launched in 1996. In 2007, teams were allowed to monetize the front of their jerseys by selling a major sponsorship, a business practice common in soccer around the world.
The NBA approved patch-sized sponsor logos in 2017, and the WNBA has allowed uniform advertising for many years.
Partnerships with gambling brands are not unusual in global soccer. This season, 10 of the 20 clubs in the English Premier League have a lucrative jersey sponsorship with such companies.
Edited by: @MaiaDigital www.zonadeazar.com