The Chicago Cubs are seeking city approval to build a two-story addition to Wrigley Field that would house one of the first betting operations at a major U.S. pro sports venue, a move that comes as a City Council committee sits on a proposed ordinance to allow it.
The team is slated to go before the Commission on Chicago Landmarks today to present its plans for a 22,350-square-foot structure that would be developed along the southeast corner of the stadium at Sheffield Avenue and Addison Street, team plans show.
It’s a key step toward building the future DraftKings Sportsbook at Wrigley Field—part of a sponsorship deal the team struck last year with Boston-based DraftKings—and stands to make gambling an integral part of game day at the Friendly Confines.
But there are significant hurdles to clear: In addition to winning approval from the landmarks panel, the team needs the City Council to pass an ordinance that would allow sports betting inside the city’s major stadiums.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) introduced such an ordinance last month, but the proposal was sent to the Council’s Rules Committee, which could stall its consideration. The ordinance isn’t without controversy, as some aldermen are concerned that sportsbooks at pro sports venues including Wrigley Field and the United Center could cannibalize spending at a future Chicago casino, something the city is counting on as a vital new revenue source.
Under Burnett’s proposal, the city would get annual licensing fees from sportsbook operators—$50,000 for the first year and $25,000 per year after that—and a portion of gambling revenue would go to the state.
The sportsbook addition would be an extension of the massive renovation of the ballpark and redevelopment of its surrounding area that the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, has completed over the past seven years.
As part of a highly contentious process several years ago to win approval for the venue’s transformation, the family won city approval for a development at the corner of Addison and Sheffield.
The National Park Service last fall also designated the restored ballpark as a National Historic Landmark, making the Ricketts family eligible to be reimbursed for 20 percent of qualified rehabilitation costs. In 2014 that credit was said to be worth some $75 million. The Park Service also needs to approve the plan for the new facility.
The Cubs also would need a license to open a sportsbook from the Illinois Gaming Board, which comes with a $10 million fee.
The team said last fall it aimed to open the sportsbook by the end of 2022, though the timeline hinges on winning the necessary approvals. The facility would take roughly a year to build, according to a team spokesman.
DraftKings co-founder and President Matt Kalish told Crain’s last fall that the Wrigley Field sportsbook would be a “flagship destination” for the company and the largest individual sportsbook in the United States. A restaurant and bar are also planned within the sportsbook.
“You’ll be able to go at 4 p.m. before a Cubs game, sit with your friends, grab drinks, make some bets for the game and then head over to the field before they get started,” Kalish said at the time. “We’re viewing it as an entire experience.”
Specifics of the sportsbook, such as planned hours of operation and the number of betting windows, were not immediately available. Under Burnett’s proposal, wagering would be barred from midnight through 10 a.m. on most weekdays and from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekends.
Though connected to the ballpark, the sportsbook addition would be open to patrons regardless of whether they have a ticket to see a Cubs game. Major League Baseball rules prohibit a sportsbook operating where a game ticket is required for entry.
The prospect of sports gambling at Chicago sports venues arose out of the massive gambling expansion law the state passed last year that legalized sports betting. The law allows the state to grant up to seven sports betting licenses for operators within five blocks of sports facilities with a capacity of at least 17,000—a list that includes Wrigley Field, the United Center, Guaranteed Rate Field and Soldier Field. Under the rules, bettors would be able to make wagers inside the physical sportsbook or on a state-approved mobile app within five blocks of it.
DraftKings already operates a mobile sports betting app in Illinois through a partnership with Casino Queen in downstate East St. Louis.