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Gaming License Could be Crucial to Redskins Stadium Project

New Redskins stadium

With owner Daniel Snyder recently lobbying lawmakers in two states for a gaming license, the vision for a new Washington Redskins stadium project is becoming a bit clearer.

As the 2027 expiration of its FedEx Field lease approaches, the team is undertaking a multi-jurisdiction search for a new stadium site that includes the D.C. suburbs of Maryland—where it currently plays in Landover—Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Neither Maryland nor Virginia has legalized sports betting to this point, but Snyder has been pitching lawmakers in both states to pass a law that would allow for the operation of a sportsbook at a new stadium. 

Several high-profile Maryland lawmakers have previously confirmed discussions with Snyder, and Virginia legislators said that the team’s owner has made similar overtures there, as was reported Sunday by the Washington Post. Since the Washington Post published its report, separate bills to legalize sports betting from the Virginia House and Senate have been approved by their respective chambers. There are differences between the bills—with how they regulate betting on college sports being among the most striking contrasts—but Delegate Mark Sickles, a sponsor of one of the bills, seems confident that the differences will be reconciled.

Notably, both bills contain language that could leave the door open for a new NFL stadium to have a sportsbook. There are subtle differences between the bills but, with the Redskins unlikely to launch construction any time soon as they undertake a multi-year planning process, the team would seemingly benefit from either. More from Sports Handle:

“It’s just got to go to conference,” Delegate Mark Sickles told Sports Handle. “(The Senate bill) will go to the House and we will reject it, and send it back or put my bill on top of it and send it back, (they’ll) do the same, and then we’ll call for a conference. It will be easy.”

The bills are in alignment on many key points, but the sticking points could be a pro stadium issue and the college “carve out” that Sickles has in his bill, which calls for prohibitions preventing wagering on Virginia college teams and in-play betting on all college sports. The Senate bill allows for both.

“It’s a little tricky on college sports,” Sickles said. “The argument against my bill is that it isn’t going to stop anyone from doing it. So, I don’t know whether I am going to cave on that.”…

The Virginia Senate bill calls for sports betting at pro venues that break ground on or after July 1, 2020, which seems to apply some pressure for construction plans. The House bill is less stringent. The text in that reads, “The Director shall issue a permit to operate a sports betting facility only to a qualified applicant that is also a major league sports franchise.”

It is worth emphasizing that Snyder has not committed to a location for a new stadium at this point and has not publicly ruled out Washington—where the RFK Stadium site has plenty of hurdles to redevelopment. The sportsbook is also perhaps the most tangible item that Snyder has publicly disclosed as a desired amenity, as to this point the stadium project has been broadly framed as the anchor of surrounding redevelopment. It has been reported by the Washington Post that Snyder has floated a stadium project in Maryland as part of a larger redevelopment of the FedEx Field site—Snyder owns about 215 acres of land in the area, including the stadium and surrounding parking lots along with several nearby undeveloped parcels—that would include commercial development, plus the move of the team’s training complex and headquarters from Virginia.

Thus far, however, the reaction among Maryland lawmakers appears to be at least mixed, with one high-profile Senator citing the franchise’s poor on-field performance in recent seasons and waning popularity as one factor in that trepidation. More from the Washington Post

So far, the pitch hasn’t yielded results. According to Senate President Emeritus Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., that’s in part because of the team’s dismal performance and plummeting popularity in recent years.

“The Redskins are going to be a tough sell, a very, very difficult sell, even under normal circumstances,” said Miller (D-Calvert), a Redskins season ticket holder who is on the Senate’s work group to sort out sports betting details.

“Even if it made political and economic sense, you add in the performance of the past few seasons and the way the fan base has been treated, it’s a really, really tough sell,” he said, adding it “would be a different conversation” if Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti requested a license.

By several accounts, the Maryland House of Delegates seemed more open to endorsing the idea of a gambling license for the Redskins. House Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery) said she would be willing to sponsor an amendment to include the team — provided it was clear it had the votes to pass.

From the Redskins’ perspective, there are likely a few reasons to be interested in including a sportsbook at a future stadium. A law on the books in Washington does allow for professional sports facilities in the District to receive gaming licenses, and a sportsbook is already in the works at Capital One Arena. Additionally, as more and more states enact legal sports betting laws, it seems likely that the number of sportsbooks in professional sports facilities could grow by the time the team opens a new stadium.

Until there is a site and financing plan together, the Redskins will still be a long way away from launching work on a new stadium project. Active lobbying on the part of Snyder for a sportsbook indicates a clear desire to have that amenity included in a new stadium, however, and gaining approval of a law that allows that strategy to take shape could be an early domino that falls in the team’s effort.

Rendering courtesy Bjarke Ingels Group.

This article first appeared in the weekly Football Stadium Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? It’s free, and you’ll see features like this before they appear on the Web. Go here to subscribe to the Football Stadium Digest newsletter.

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