Where The Action Is – Or May Be: Architects, Building Operators Get Set As Gambling Moves Toward Sports Venues

U.S. Bank Stadium
ANGELA WEISS /AFP / Getty Images
– U.S. Bank Stadium
in Minneapolis

Sports gambling destinations are coming to arenas and stadiums, according to officials with Detroit architecture firm Rossetti, which has done work for both casinos and sports venues in the Motor City.
“We’ve been asked already by several clients to look at some really cool club areas that could have gaming going on at the same time as watching the event,” Rossetti President Matt Rossetti said.
It’s still early in the process, but the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday declaring the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act unconstitutional has created a whole new world for programming sports venues with gaming components. The ruling clears the way for individual states to legalize betting in their communities.
The ruling represents a huge step for betting enthusiasts, but several hurdles must be cleared before teams can make a move. And before it’s all said and done, there could be sweeping federal legislation in place, attaching greater restrictions to state laws.
In addition, facility managers must comply with another layer of regulations set forth by the leagues and teams before launching gambling retrofits at their buildings, said Lee Zeidman, president of Staples Center in Los Angeles, an arena with four tenants across the NBA, WNBA and NHL.
But make no mistake, teams have their eye on tapping into an industry that generates $150 billion annually from sports fans placing illegal bets, according to the American Gaming Association.
“It’s almost impossible to figure out how extensive these spaces will be,” Rossetti said. “But we know a lot of team owners are [also] starting to look at how to move office and administrative space out of their arenas so they can stuff it with gaming areas.”
Many teams are halfway there. They have casinos sponsoring premium spaces such as Mystic Lake Club Purple at U.S. Bank Stadium, Staples Center’s San Manuel Club and the MGM Grand Tunnel Club at Ford Field. In South Florida, Hard Rock International, whose name is on the casino owned by the Seminole Tribe down the road in Hollywood, Fla., holds naming rights for the Miami Dolphins’ stadium. In those deals, the activation in-venue revolves around hospitality and branding and does not extend to the gaming business.
But that could change in the future as the situation continues to unfold after the Supreme Court’s ruling. For teams, the next step is to add the gaming aspect to the game-day experience in those branded clubs. In Minnesota, Club Purple serves as the fantasy football lounge for Vikings fans. Those fantasy lounges are a natural fit for inserting more gambling elements, sports architect Dan Meis said.
Meis is designing a new soccer stadium for Everton F.C., a member of the Premier League. Sports betting is legal in many corners of Europe, and betting windows are part of stadium infrastructure. Meis feels the time is coming for the integration of sports betting in U.S. stadiums.
“It’s an integral part of the experience in the U.K. and elsewhere in the world,” he said. “I could imagine sportsbook clubs very much like we see common to Las Vegas gaming resorts make their way into venues.”
On their own, Rossetti officials are poised for the crossover.
In Detroit, the Greektown Casino-Hotel has been a Rossetti client over the past decade, and the firm’s work includes redesigning the “high roller room” and a food hall with new dining concepts. The casino, to be rebranded as Jack Detroit Casino-Hotel later this year, is owned by Jack Entertainment, a gaming company owned by Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Detroit-based Jack Entertainment also owns casinos in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Baltimore. 
The Cavaliers hired Rossetti to design a refresh of premium areas as part of a $140 million renovation of Quicken Loans Arena, to be completed in 2019. The team said there had been no talk of Jack Entertainment’s casino properties getting a presence in the building as part of the upgrades. Gilbert’s Cleveland casino is a few blocks from the arena. 

Quicken Loans Arena – Quicken Loans Arena
To this point, gambling in Ohio is restricted to table games and slot machines since the opening of the state’s first casino in 2012. Additional legislation would be required to legalize sports betting in Ohio, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported this week.
For Rossetti, it would be a seamless transition, said Kelly Deines, the firm’s creative director.
“Our knowledge of gaming environments can easily translate into an arena/stadium environment,” Deines said. “It’s about creating an experience that resonates for sports fans and adding entertainment value through gaming.”
Considering the enormous revenue potential, the list of gaming ideas is endless, Deines said, keeping in mind state laws, plus equipment needs, market demographics and social behavior patterns. He sees the potential for gaming devices to be integrated into public concourses, as well as premium areas at arenas and stadiums.
“Like any experience, it will need to be curated for the specific venue,” Deines said. “There will likely be some evolution to get the right balance.”
That’s key as teams start to figure out all the implications, said Brad Mayne, president and CEO of the International Association of Venue Managers and a former operator at MetLife Stadium and American Airlines Center.
“It’s going to be that immersion of the fan experience that’s going to drive how this works,” Mayne said. “Teams are going to have to make the decision — do we want people in these spaces placing their bets and want them to continue to stay to place multiple bets? Or do we want them watching the game?
“Some of that already happens in the VIP spaces like the bunker suites, when the game starts and it looks like nobody’s there [in the seating bowl],” he said. “At the same time, it’s getting people to the venue, spending money and experiencing the brand. There’s going to have to be a lot of thought put into what the teams and the venues are going to do, again, depending on state legislation.”

This story originally appeared at VenuesNow.