Handle19 Wants To Be Both The First And Most Unique Sportsbook In Washington, DC

Posted on January 24, 2020 - Last Updated on March 9, 2020

Besides Arlington Cemetery and the National Archives, there are many famous landmarks in Washington, DC. 

Handle19 DC Sportsbook wants to become another landmark, not only for sports bettors but for everyone.

While it won’t be the only place for legal sports betting in the District someday, it could be best and first.  

Why Handle19 DC sportsbook could be unique among its competitors

Many of the future operators in the Washington, DC market will be found in existing businesses that add legal DC sports betting, such as restaurants and sports bars.

Ian Thomas, an attorney at Offit Kurman who represents Handle19, says his client is different because it’s inverted the business model.

“I think I would characterize (Handle19) as a more Las Vegas-style sportsbook that is welcoming to people who may not necessarily have a great interest in gambling,” Thomas said. 

“I think that there are a lot of sports bars in the city that either have or are planning to add a gaming component to their existing operations, but I don’t put Handle19 in the same category as them.”

Thomas adds that unlike casinos and other establishments, Handle19 views its sportsbook as its primary source of revenue. 

Its endeavor to create something new for the DC market includes being in a prime location and providing a high-end culinary experience.

The business plan, according to Thomas, is to open in the eclectic Adams Morgan neighborhood. The dining experience will include elements from the local community. Thomas adds that Handle19 will utilize local businesses in other ways.

How Handle19 will spread the love  

The DC Council requires a certified business enterprise plan for each licensee. 

Essentially, it means that every sportsbook license holder has to formulate and implement a strategy to involve other businesses in Washington.  

“We intend to involve extensively small businesses of this jurisdiction,” Thomas said. “Whether that will be getting supplies from local craft breweries, whether that will be hiring local janitorial or security services, whether that will be hiring IT people, we will more than satisfy that certified business enterprise requirement…

We intend to employ local businesses in this sports gambling ecosystem so that when we grow, they grow and when we succeed, they succeed.”

Success for Handle19 relies upon forming the right type of relationships, which extends beyond local partners. 

For example, UK-based Newgioco Group will provide the sports betting platform.

Handle19 is incorporating the National Council on Problem Gambling in building out its business. Thomas believes responsible gaming is a serious concern for his client.

“We certainly respect that, and we want to provide an atmosphere that is going to be fun,” Thomas said. “The goal isn’t to get a bunch of people drunk and they lose all their money. Because they aren’t going to want to come back.”

The investors in Handle19 want to have fun, too; however, it depends on making a profit, which isn’t any different for any other business.

Costs of operating a Washington, DC sportsbook

Thomas said, like any other business, his client is cognizant of the competition. There is always a concern that excess sports betting operators will result in cannibalization.

The unique nature of Handle19 would protect the business against market saturation, said Thomas.

Thomas doesn’t see the typical sports bar as a direct competitor, but there is another reason he isn’t too worried about the competition.

“There are high barriers of entry to get into the marketplace,” Thomas said. “I think those high barriers will deter a fair amount of people who have thought about it in terms of this could be a few thousand dollars of extra revenue a month. It’s a lot of effort to get there.”

Handle19 sees the future sportsbook inside Capital One Arena in the same light. 

While that may limit the book’s ability to use local professional athletes as marketing partners, Thomas says that Washington’s NFL club remains an option.

That interest may be mutual. Washington owner Dan Snyder recently expressed interest in having a sportsbook at the future home of his franchise in Maryland.

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Staying focused on Adams Morgan amidst distractions

That opens up the question of whether Handle19 is looking beyond the borders of DC. 

Thomas says that while it is focusing on opening in Washington now, it is aware of other opportunities in the region.

That may eventually include other Washington, DC locations. Thomas says it hopes to open in Adams Morgan in late June or early July.

“The day we get full final approval to go, we will be ready to go,” Thomas said. “The reason for that is once you get approval, they do one last spot check on the facility to ensure compliance. So, by the time the DC Lottery does that, we will be ready. The infrastructure will be set up. The only thing we will be waiting on is that final approval.”

When that day comes, DC will see its first high-end sportsbook. Whether it will have the success that some of its counterparts in Las Vegas enjoy is uncertain right now.

What’s certain, however, is that the business aims to differentiate itself in Washington. That alone may be enough to make the investors’ gamble pay off.

Derek Helling Avatar
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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