Customers strolled into the BetMGM Sportsbook at Nationals Park on Saturday afternoon, excited to visit the addition to their community that opened Jan. 31. People checked out the betting kiosks, with a few grinning at their friends as they placed in-person wagers.
This particular Saturday was a college basketball fan’s dream, as several marquee matchups were scattered throughout the day. A fan wearing a Kansas Jayhawks sweatshirt watched contentedly as Kansas throttled Baylor 83-59 at home. The Jayhawks secured a key conference win and easily covered the 2.5-point spread.
Another customer reacted exuberantly every time Jordan Spieth knocked an iron shot close to the pin during the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Spieth shot a 9-under-par 63 on Saturday before coming up a couple shots shy of winning the tournament on Sunday. Spieth finished alone in second place, cashing top-5, top-10, and top-20 bets, should anyone have taken those.
On one television showing basketball, Bryant squared off with Mount St. Mary’s. It’s a mystery how that game found itself on one of the television screens, given the volume of quality college basketball on Saturday. The game turned out to be a gem, with visiting Bryant winning 62-61 over favored Mount St. Mary’s, although nobody in the sportsbook seemed to be watching that matchup.
Here’s the choice for National Player of the Week:
Bryant’s Charles Pride.
44p/12r Thursday, 32p/10r today
Two wins on the road, without the other two best players.
— Morey Hershgordon (@MHershgordon) February 5, 2022
Later that evening, fans were treated to Duke-North Carolina, although the matchup didn’t quite live up to its billing. Duke smashed the Tar Heels, winning 87-67 in Coach K’s final trip to Chapel Hill to comfortably cover as a 3.5-point favorite.
Customers still use the app
In many ways, the experience at the new sportsbook mirrored that of a typical sports bar. There was just clearly a stronger emphasis on sports betting than a normal bar, as one wall of the sportsbook flashed various betting lines the same as in a casino. BetMGM branding was also displayed throughout the establishment.
Of note, many of the customers in the sportsbook still used their phones to place wagers via the BetMGM app, which can be used within a two-block radius of Nationals Park.
“I use the BetMGM app at my house, and pretty much all the way around the stadium it works for a couple blocks,” explained D.C. resident Jeremy Michael “That’s what I used when I was in the book, actually. … It’s super convenient.”
Michael, who lives walking distance from Nats Park, even wondered aloud why he should go to the BetMGM sportsbook for betting, rather than other bars near Nats Park where betting is also accessible on the BetMGM app. Given the BetMGM Sportsbook’s proximity to Nats Park, it’ll still likely fill up for baseball home games, even if ballpark spectators can’t directly access the sportsbook.
Ballpark prices for drinks, so I’d say no. Go before/after games to place your bets, then go to Walters or Atlas to drink. https://t.co/Q0bLY72LsN
— Commander Chris (@slimceeVA) February 2, 2022
It’s not a massive venue, but that didn’t seem to be BetMGM’s objective when creating the relatively compact space. It holds 187 people, has 40 TVs, six betting windows, and about a dozen kiosks. Even during a Saturday afternoon in February, it started to fill up as the afternoon turned into evening. It’ll be interesting to monitor how the location, which is open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight, fits in customers for events like the Super Bowl, March Madness, and Nats home games, all of which should draw crowds into the area.
“It’s going to be crazy to see how they handle a ‘baseball’ crowd on a busy weekend day or prime night where [30,000] or so fans are in the area,” Chris Russell, a sports radio host in the D.C. area, told Sports Handle via email. “We were told that they have a plan for that even though capacity inside is less than 200 customers.”
Russell, who also hosts a podcast about the Washington Commanders, hosted his radio show from the spot on a Monday afternoon. He interacted with BetMGM executives and customers, gaining a decent understanding of the location and its perks.
“The question I have is how are [they] going to keep the flow of customer traffic going and balance those who want to gamble vs. those who want to use the location as simply a restaurant option,” Russell said.
Stronghold in the DMV
The new sportsbook grows BetMGM’s presence in the “DMV” area, as the operator’s betting platform is available in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia. BetMGM offers mobile wagering throughout Virginia, while its D.C. presence is limited to a couple of blocks. In Maryland, mobile sports betting isn’t yet available, but MGM National Harbor was the first Maryland retail sports wagering location to launch in late 2021.
“Launching in Washington, D.C., at Nationals Park sets the stage for our plans to expand BetMGM within the region, as we’ve already seen great success in Virginia,” BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt said in a statement. “The Washington Nationals have been a fantastic partner, committed to innovating the in-stadium fan experience and we’re looking forward to opening our retail sportsbook at the stadium later this year.”
Customer acquisition is a constant battle among national operators, and BetMGM is far from the only national operator with a presence in the region. It’s worth noting that DraftKings doesn’t have a retail partner yet in Maryland, but Caesars and FanDuel have Virginia licenses and retail locations in Maryland.
FanDuel sportsbook isn’t available in D.C., while Caesars can be used within a two-block radius of Capital One Arena, home of the NBA’s Washington Wizards, WNBA’s Washington Mystics, and the NHL’s Washington Capitals. Caesars also has a retail sportsbook at Capital One Arena.
Not everyone in the D.C. area is thrilled about BetMGM’s new sportsbook, as some Nationals fans were quick to reply negatively to the team’s official tweet about opening a sportsbook at the centerfield gate. Some users expressed concerns about having a sports gambling company heavily involved with their favorite baseball team, and one just commented, “Gross.”
This makes me sick and sad. So disappointing that you are creating an environment where gambling is pervasive in a place that we want to be family friendly.
— Jen Underwood (@vandygirl1998) January 31, 2022
Fan opinions on the morality of sports wagering aside, the sportsbook provides a quality viewing experience for the diehard sports fan, and it’s an ideal spot for live betting while able to view multiple events simultaneously. There’s a respectable range of drink and food options that match the offerings at most traditional sports bars.
“I think Bet MGM certainly knows what they’re doing and it will be a good convenient location for a lot of people in Navy Yard to get something to eat and have a little action without having to go to National Harbor or somewhere else, regardless of the Nats’ schedule,” Russell said.