The Wrigleyville neighborhood nestled just north of downtown Chicago doesn’t look like it did five years ago. Gone are some of the local bars and restaurants that gave the place a true neighborhood feel.
Lead by a revamped Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, some local spots are no more. In their place are a hotel, parking garage and several new upscale eateries. The neighborhood is more of a tourist destination now, and it’s about to get another addition, a DraftKings Sportsbook.
On Thursday, the Cubs announced a multiyear deal with DraftKings, making them the first Major League Baseball franchise to partner with a sports betting operator.
Chicago Cubs + DraftKings
Specifics of the deal are still being discussed, but according to a press release, the plan is to bring a first-of-its-kind sportsbook to iconic Wrigley Field.
Matt Kalish, co-founder and president, DraftKings North America, had this to say:
“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. 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.”
As the neighborhood continues to change, so does the consumer experience, especially inside the ballpark.
The Cubs’ president of business operations, Crane Kenny, said sports fans want MLB betting integrated into the game experience.
“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,” Kenney said. “And we’re excited to be one of the first to engage in developing a retail sportsbook at a professional sports venue.”
A few checkpoints for legal Illinois sports betting
Before fans can begin placing bets at Illinois sports betting apps, both DraftKings and the Cubs have several miles of red tape to navigate. Both will have to deal with the City of Chicago and the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB). This means the retail book is unlikely to open before 2022.
DraftKings doesn’t exactly have the best track record with Illinois and, as the Cubs’ designated sports betting operator, it must apply for a master sports wagering license with the IGB.
The team will have to seek city approval to build a sportsbook. And per Illinois’ gambling law, it will have to pay a $10 million licensing fee to operate retail betting on-site and mobile betting within five blocks.
Through its partnership with Casino Queen in East St. Louis, DraftKings already operates mobile sports betting. And with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reversal on remote registration, customers can now sign up for a sports betting account from home.
Could other Chicago sports teams follow?
It’s expected that, in due time, the Bears, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks all could have sports betting partnerships.
They could also bring on former star athletes as consultants. Chicago icon Michael Jordan was recently added to DraftKings’ board of directors in an advisory role.
Of course, it’s too early to speculate on what might happen in Chicago. The league has such a rich history with gambling: the “Black Sox” scandal of 1919; Pete Rose betting on games while coaching the Cincinnati Reds; former commissioner Bud Selig describing gambling as “evil.”
But now, it appears MLB has made peace with everything and is getting pretty comfortable with gambling these days.