It’s a new day for professional women’s basketball bettors in Illinois.
A partnership between PointsBet and the WNBA will have several implications for fans who like to bet on the Chicago Sky.
Some of the changes will be apparent and immediate, while other implications will remain elusive for the time being.
Details about the PointsBet-WNBA deal
PointsBet Sportsbook and the WNBA made the deal official on May 21.
It’s the sports betting operator’s first sponsorship of a professional women’s sports league. However, it isn’t the first such deal for the WNBA and a gambling company.
In 2018, the WNBA joined the NBA in making MGM an official gaming partner. Through that, BetMGM Sportsbook uses the WNBA official data and trademarks in its online and retail sports betting products.
That might include innovative in-game and prop markets during Sky games this season and into the future. That could be only the beginning of integrations between Chicago and gambling, though.
Something similar written in the clouds?
A logical procession of events could lead to the Sky landing a similar sponsorship of their own, perhaps with one of PointsBet’s competitors. However, that couldn’t include a retail sportsbook at Wintrust Arena.
Illinois sports betting law does allow for stadium owners to apply for sports betting licenses. The Chicago Cubs plan to offer a DraftKings Sportsbook at Wrigley Field.
The state law requires stadiums to have seating capacities of at least 17,000. Wintrust holds just over 10,000 people. Also, the Sky team doesn’t own the Wintrust stadium.
Thus, to hold a sportsbook license, the Sky would either have to relocate to a larger venue that they own or benefit from a change in the law.
During the last legislative session, one bill proposed such a change. It would have allowed any women’s sports team in operation for at least a decade prior to the bill’s enactment to apply for a sports betting license, regardless of the size of its venue or ownership status.
The bill surfaced late in the session and never progressed. So far in this session, it hasn’t returned. There are options for the Sky short of that, though.
How the Sky could still benefit from the status quo
That doesn’t mean the Sky and a gambling partner couldn’t open a “betting lounge” at WinTrust. Such a space would have many aesthetics of a retail sportsbook but without any actual betting windows or kiosks.
Visitors would instead place bets on their phones, encouraged to do so with the particular sportsbook sponsoring the space. The partnership could revolve completely around the online product, too, with zero physical activations at Wintrust.
Such a partnership might be in the works. Until then, the Sky will get some benefit from PointsBet’s expansion of WNBA markets. To maximize that advantage, they’ll have to act on their own.