Zach Leonsis: bringing new physical experiences to Capital One Arena

Zach Leonsis: bringing new physical experiences to Capital One Arena

Kicking off proceedings on day two of this week’s SBC Digital Summit North America was Zach Leonsis, SVP Strategic Initiatives at Monumental Sports Entertainment. Opening up the Wednesday Sports track, sponsored by United Tote Gaming Service, Leonsis issued the day’s keynote address, sharing his company’s vision around sports betting in Washington DC.

Talking generally about the emergence of legal sports betting in the US, he told delegates: “I’ve been really impressed learning about some of the big sportsbook companies that operate in the US like Draftkings, like William Hill, like MGM. They’re all very impressive and when you visit their offices they’re all blue chip organizations. 

“They take the regulations incredibly seriously. They’re leveraging big data, they lockout problem gamers, they’re trying to encourage responsible gaming opportunities. But they’re also driving incredible fan engagement which drives ratings, which helps out team brands and league brands alike. And all of it is under the lock and key of Uncle Sam’s direction and gathering the tax dollars that can benefit whatever programs individual states want to pursue.”

Looking ahead to the ongoing legalization across the country, he added: “We made our own bet that PASPA would eventually be repealed and we got lucky. Now that the state-by-state approach is really taking hold and will continue to take hold over the next three to five years we’re going to learn a lot about what frameworks and systems work well and what frameworks and systems need improvement. 

“We’re strong believers in the accessibility of gaming – we want to take as much of the black market as possible and bring it into the light so we can be further regulated – and that includes mobile and web-based gaming. But we also want to do our best to bring new physical experiences to new locations like the future sportsbook operated by William Hill at Capital One Arena.”

Expanding on some of the thinking behind Monumental’s push to launch its own in-arena sportsbook – the first of its kind in the US, he said: “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. 

“So there isn’t a natural room for where sportsbooks would stand in Washington DC. The DC legislation dictates that there are certain entertainment zones and Capital One will be one of those entertainment districts.

“When you think about our building, which we own and operate, is privately funded it’s incredibly busy. We’re booked over 230 nights a year across multiple leagues, concerts, family shows and the like. But really our building is pretty quiet outside of live game windows.”

On how the new sportsbook is currently shaping up, Leonsis commented: “William Hill is taking really great care to make sure that this is a first class experience that this is a place that people want to hang out and spend a lot of time. And so 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.”

SBC Digital Summit North America recreates many of the key features of a physical trade show, providing attendees with an opportunity to learn, make new connections, and view the latest products from the comfort of their own home or office. 

Running alongside the conference content is a program of themed networking sessions, while  attendees will also have further opportunities to connect at workshops and in the 20-booth interactive exhibition hall where major international suppliers will showcase their latest innovations. 

SBC Digital Summit North America is running this week until July 16. To register or obtain more information visit the event’s official website. 

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