LANDOVER, Md. – Shortly after 10am at FedEx Field, Washington Commanders fan Chris Bryant did something previously unthinkable in the NFL: He placed a bet at a bookmaker inside an NFL stadium.
“This is the first time I’ve placed any kind of sports bet,” Bryant said.
The Commanders opened the NFL’s first in-stadium sportsbook on Friday in partnership with Fanatics. The Arizona Cardinals opened a bookmaker in September that is located outside the stadium. In Washington, no bets can be placed when the Commanders are playing at home.
The franchise received approval from the Maryland State Gaming and Lotteries Control Commission for a sports betting license on August 17. They have a five year license.
From there, they needed to go through separate regulatory processes and also build a 5,000 square foot space inside the stadium. There are eight betting windows – one of which Bryant handed over $20 for a bet involving the Washington Capitals and Wizards in – 21 self-service betting kiosks and a full-service restaurant area that has 38 TV monitors and two LED video walls . Fanatics also operates the team store at the stadium.
Washington team president Jason Wright said opening a bookmaker in the team’s home stadium became a priority shortly after his hiring in August 2020. He said he had initiated discussions with Adrienne Jones, spokeswoman for the House of Delegates of Maryland, and with Bill Ferguson, President of the Maryland Senate.
Wright called it the “down payment on a revamped experience” at FedEx Field, a stadium that has had its share of problems over the years. Washington is looking to secure land on which to build another stadium, but they don’t have to leave their site until after the 2026 season. They can renew their lease to play on the land if they don’t already have a new stadium.
“We made a promise to be innovative and do things for our fans that give them a unique experience that others haven’t and that’s a change from the past,” said Wright.
Fanatics business director Ari Borod called FedEx Field a “logical place to put it” because he sees it as a historic franchise with a rabid fan base. Wright, who played in the NFL from 2004-10, marveled at what he called the “rapid evolution” of NFL gambling, which he avoided for decades. The NFL announced its first sports betting partnerships in April 2021.
“When I was playing fantasy football I was still young,” said Wright. “Certainly my views have changed over time because [sports betting] it has become an integral part of the culture of engaging sports, especially for younger people and Gen Z. This is almost the main way people get involved in the game. It changes the way you think about it. Some people no longer have a favorite team, they have a favorite player or favorite platforms they engage with. It changes the way we think about sports and the way we build fan loyalty.”
The opening comes amid uncertainty with the Washington franchise. Co-owners Dan and Tanya Snyder announced in November that the team was up for sale. Several bids were submitted on Dec. 23, although Jeff Bezos, long rumored to be of interest, has yet to bid according to multiple sources.
Wright said his conversations with the Snyders have been “business as usual. It’s not unlike how you’ve heard my interactions with them in the past.” Wright told himself and coach Ron Rivera, “Nothing changes. Build a healthy business, build a winning team. That’s all there is to it.”