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DraftKings Sportsbook At Wrigley Field Still In The Works Despite Bureaucratic Snafus

James Murphy
by in MLB on
  • A state of the art DraftKings retail sportsbook is back on track at Wrigley Field.
  • The plan was announced in September 3, 2020 but has been delayed by pointless bureaucratic red tape.
  • The Cubs are hoping that the sportsbook will be operating by opening day 2023 but that’s contingent on clearing even more regulatory nonsense through several state, local and federal agencies.

You probably remember back in September 2020 that DraftKings and the Chicago Cubs announced a partnership deal. The most interesting part of what was otherwise a ‘by the book’ type partnership announcement was plans for a ‘first of its kind sportsbook at the iconic Wrigley Field’. So that was over a year and a half ago–you’d think the sportsbook would be long open and taking bets, right? Guess again–that’s not how things work in Chicago.

Plans for the sportsbook have been stuck in a bureaucratic limbo for much of the past year. The good news is that the project is back on track, though it still must deal with some more pointless political nonsense of the type that has businesses fleeing the ‘Rust Belt’ in droves. The plan is for a 22,350-square-foot building standing two stories high with glass walls and all of the amenities you’d expect from a state-of-the-art sportsbook. The location will be at the site of the former Captain Morgan Club, which has been shuttered since 2018. The new building will also include food and beverage options and an open-air rooftop deck. It won’t feature access directly from Wrigley Field–fans must exit the ballpark and go through a gate to access the sportsbook. Major League Baseball has no problem taking money from sportsbooks but won’t allow direct access from ballparks.

The site was already a target for renovation as part of a broad based upgrade to the area around Wrigley Field. When the deal with DraftKings came about, the original plans pivoted to a sportsbook. This required getting a series of re-approvals from a laundry list of functionaries including the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Wrigley Field was designated a Chicago landmark in 2004 and a National Historic Landmark in 2020.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green says the addition of a sportsbook at Wrigley Field is part of an effort to attract new fans to the game and the ballpark:

“While the game of baseball has largely been the same for the last 150 years, the fans have changed. The way they consume baseball is different through emerging technology and content platforms. Sports wagering is becoming a big part of that change and this sportsbook will allow us to connect fans to the game in new ways.”

The hope now is that it won’t be another 150 years before the sportsbook opens for business. Work on the building itself can proceed and general contractor Pepper Construction can get to work since the city has issued a foundation permit. The construction should be completed by the end of the year and the Cubs are hoping that the sportsbook will be up and running by opening day 2023. That could be wishful thinking. The sportsbook plan must now be approved by the City Council, the Illinois Gaming Board and the National Park Service. The biggest issue could be the proposal before the city council to allow sportsbooks at Chicago sports venues. The proposal was introduced last month and it is already being revised. The sponsor of the bill admits that it might take a while to get approved.

You think that City Council approval would be easy given that the Illinois Sports Wagering Act specifically mandated that the state’s seven largest sports facilities could acquire a sports gaming license. Like we said before–that’s not the way things work in the multiple time winner of ‘Most Corrupt City in America’ (in the third most corrupt state).

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