The DraftKings sportsbook at Wrigley Field opened yesterday. While it is an impressive space for sports lovers, located at one of baseball’s cherished cathedrals, many are wondering why you can’t, yet, place a bet at the sportsbook.
There are some compelling reasons.
PlayIllinois reached out to the Illinois Gaming Board for clarification about the rules regarding Illinois sportsbooks at professional sports facilities.
So far, only two facilities have built sportsbooks: the DK one at Wrigley and a FanDuel sportsbook inside the United Center that opened in November.
Neither has taken a single sports bet, yet, directly.
Only the United Center lounge is officially listed on the IGB website as an applicant for a sports betting license. But IGB spokesperson Beth Kaufman told PlayIllinois via email that DraftKings did indeed apply for a sports facility sportsbook license at Wrigley on March 10, 2023.
Ten million reasons no one is in a hurry to offer sports betting at Wrigley
Stephen Miraglia, DK’s director of communications, told the Daily Herald that the company’s strategy, “is to identify, with flagship locations like this, high foot traffic areas. What better place than Wrigley Field?
“This would be a year-round destination, a very immersive viewing experience for people that want to come in, enjoy games, have some food. It’s all about reaching that audience. Not only Cubs fans, but the tourists around here.”
The lavish 17,000-square foot, two-story lounge at the corner of Addison Street and Sheffield Avenue, features a 2,000-square-foot video screen that can show up to 25 games at once. Entry is restricted to those 21 or older. There is no way to access the sports lounge from inside Wrigley Field.
Kaufman confirmed the license fee to turn it into a sportsbook costs $10 million. While DK has clearly applied to do just that, there’s really no hurry.
Currently, there’s nothing stopping patrons from betting on sports through any one of the seven legal Illinois sportsbook apps while enjoying a meal, beverage and a game at the Wrigley sportsbook.
And with DK playing host to the party — and their logo splattered everywhere — they are likely to be the online sportsbook of choice for those in the company’s Wrigley Field space.
What exactly does $10 million get DraftKings or the Cubs?
For that $10 million fee, DraftKings at Wrigley and FanDuel Sportsbook at the United Center get the right to offer the only sportsbook at or within a five-block radius for four years. Only one sportsbook can be tied to each of seven possible professional sports facilities. So, that provides exclusivity at least in the physical space.
While the one-sportsbook-per-sports-facility rule prevents a competitor from opening up next door or across the street, it doesn’t prevent patrons from betting on their phones with DK or FanDuel or BetRivers Illinois, BetMGM Sportsbook, PointsBet IL, Caesars Sportsbook or Barstool, for that matter, within that five-block zone.
After the initial four years, the renewal fee is a further $1 million every four years.
That’s a lot of beans for little more than the right to bet in person at, or near, a sports facility, especially when you consider 96% of sports betting in Illinois has been conducted online since the activity has been legal.
DraftKings is tying itself to the iconic brands that are the Cubs and Wrigley Field. Other than that, the sportsbook operator and the team are essentially getting an elaborate billboard and the opportunity to make some money from food and beverage.
Is this a reasonable way for an operator to enter the Illinois sports betting market?
DraftKings is already well established in Illinois. It is the top Illinois sportsbook by total bets and second to FanDuel in revenue.
DK and FD have over 60% of the Illinois sports betting market combined.
That again proves the real value in the Wrigley sportsbook is in the marketing exposure.
Had a sportsbook operator currently not operating in Illinois opted to have partnered with the Cubs, it would have given them some access to the market. Though, it would be limited access. Illinois Gaming Board rules state:
“A sports facility or its designee issued a master sports wagering license may conduct sports wagering over the Internet within the sports facility or within a five-block radius of the sports facility.”
That limits a new-to-Illinois operator to doing business only within those five blocks.
Again, that’s a lot of money for limited return, especially in a state already dominated by DraftKings and FanDuel.
Online-only sportsbook license another option, but it’s pricey
Also, there’s another option for entering the Illinois sports betting market. And this one at least gives access to the entire state.
Currently, all seven of the state’s legal sportsbooks are tethered to casinos. But, an operator looking to enter the market can apply for one of three “online only” sportsbook licenses that do not require a tether.
Trouble is, an online-only license costs $20 million.
That would allow complete access to the second-biggest sports betting market in the US. But, it’s clearly a lot to ask.
Currently, there are no listed applicants for the three slots. Given the price and the major players already in the market, that’s no surprise.
Besides, those already in the market are not keen on having more competition. And they are likely funding lobbying efforts to ward off potential competitors.
Bottom line, DraftKings may be moving toward making its Wrigley Field location a full-fledged sportsbook. But it certainly is in no hurry to do so. The cost is simply too high, especially when it will do little more than further cement DraftKings as one of the state’s most successful sportsbooks.