It’s taken two-and-a-half years for sports gambling to clear the Supreme Court hurdle to actually arriving in arenas and stadiums where the games people play are housed. But we’re there.
The Chicago Cubs announced today that it is partnering with DraftKings to open a Wrigley Field location, either in the actual stadium (though MLB forbids that at the moment) or on the grounds around it which the Cubs own. It still involves getting clearance from the city of Chicago and DraftKings still needs to get a full license from the Illinois Gaming Board. Both DraftKings and FanDuel only have temporary licenses in the state at the moment, and were held in a “penalty box” while Rivers Casino got a full license back in the spring when the state opened sports betting.
This being Chicago and Illinois, the right cash spread in the right place could keep DraftKings and the Cubs from opening a Wrigley location. But if it’s not DraftKings, it’ll be somebody. And Wrigley will hardly be the only one.
William Hill has been operating a temporary sportsbook out of Capital One Arena in D.C. while they build their permanent home. Meadowlands Racetrack, which is next door to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, has its own sports betting lounge, but so far the NFL has said it can’t be open during games. That will assuredly change.
The only thing putting this on hold at all is that stadiums at the moment can’t have people. While these sportsbooks could clean up with thousands of people, most of them drinking and hanging around on a daily basis, that’s not the case at the moment. When fans can return to stadiums and arenas in full is when you’ll see these kinds of on-site betting locations explode in number.
While it does seem to be the truest “church and state” marriage imaginable, as sports traditionally have tried to keep gambling out altogether or just restricted to Vegas, there’s no point in fighting it now. If the teams don’t get in on this, they’ll simply watch fans in the stands betting from their phones all day and get nothing. And while no team, including the Cubs, would take any of the money being bet at these locations — that would be shifty as fuck — they can charge whatever they want for the space and the partnership. The one between DraftKings and the Cubs could see the team grab up to $100 million over 10 years. Teams are not going to turn down any deal even remotely looking like that, numbers-wise.
It does feel odd to have both in the same location. The sight of one or many fans yelling at a player not for costing the home team a run or game with an error but because it caused the over to hit while waving their betting slips around violently is an awkward one for sure. But this has been quite common in European soccer stadiums for a while now, including 30 of the 44 teams in England’s top two divisions having betting windows in the stadium or next to it. This is just the way of the world now.
We can look forward to a future of betting lines on scoreboards and ads for the location nearest the stadium, if not in it, or pushing you to use the mobile app of that team’s choosing. That might sound weird and even unethical, but is that much different than stadiums running “fantasy stats” from the game on view and those around the country as they do now? Not particularly.
Teams and betting sites are now firmly in bed together.
Let’s just hope their kids don’t come out terribly ugly.