This week’s announcement that DraftKings would put a retail sportsbook in or around Chicago’s Wrigley Field piqued some eyebrows in and outside Illinois. Yes, purists will see this as another commercial enterprise sullying the cathedral of baseball on Addison Street. However, this also shows a glimpse of the future for bettors in the Land of Lincoln and baseball overall.
DraftKings has already set up shop in East St. Louis at Casino Queen. In addition, the company announced earlier in the week the addition of Chicago Bulls icon Michael Jordan as an advisor – earning him a seat on the company’s board of directors.
First of its kind in MLB
While other teams have branded lounges with sports betting companies, and partnerships are becoming more common between books and teams overall – this marks a new endeavor in these relationships. Bringing live wagering to a major city like Chicago, specifically in a neighborhood-based facility like Wrigley Field, could be a step towards bringing retail locations to where people are, not bringing the people to the locations.
“This is truly a historic moment, as we are thrilled to align with the renowned Chicago Cubs franchise and iconic Wrigley Field to provide sports bettors in Chicago with a revolutionary sports betting experience,” said Matt Kalish, co-founder and President, DraftKings North America, in a release. “As two organizations that share a mutual passion for innovation and a commitment to excellence, we look forward to working in collaboration with the Cubs, an organization steeped in tradition, and making our presence felt in and around Wrigleyville.”
Illinois sports betting quickly growing
Illinois recently reversed course on a policy mandating players sign up in person at casinos to open accounts with sportsbooks. It’s usually easier to allow customers to get started online, yet the plan created a compromise with the gaming facilities that would lose business to online action. With casinos closed from coronavirus, players have easier on-boarding options for the time being.
The location at Wrigley Field would give players an easier destination to visit for new and repeat business.
“DraftKings has been a great partner for a number of years and we are excited to expand this relationship as sports betting grows rapidly in Illinois,” said Crane Kenney, President of Business Operations, Chicago Cubs. “An increasing number of sports fans want to integrate sports betting into their game experience, and we’re excited to be one of the first to engage in developing a retail sportsbook at a professional sports venue.”
If successful, this model will likely be repeated across baseball and the country. Teams have lost millions with closed arenas and stadiums this year. In-game revenue is a huge driver of business, especially the local stuff like community engagement, payroll, and marketing. Deals like this offer guaranteed revenue from renting space on concourses, if allowed by law. States with cash-strapped budgets could reconsider restrictions to allow this to spread.
Wrigley Field is a destination venue for fans of the North Siders and baseball overall. If executed well and open year-round, this could rival FanDuel’s location at the Meadowlands – outside of NYC – for handle and revenue. If limited to the 81 Cubs home games, it will still provide a high-profile example to states considering sports betting on how to create popular, well-supervised locations.