Get ready for a whole lot more of this news in 2021 and beyond: the Washington Nationals are partnering with BetMGM as their exclusive sports betting partner, and that will include opening a new sportsbook right at Nationals Park this year (Washington Post).
The Nationals join the Cubs as the first two MLB teams to exclusively partner with a sports betting provider to create, among other things, a sportsbook at the ballpark. The Cubs announced late last year that they were partnering with DraftKings on a similar setup, though theirs came without an explicit timeline, whereas the Nationals look to launch this year. In that way they could wind up the guinea pig on how this is going to work.
Although teams cannot own sportsbooks at their parks for obvious reasons, these kinds of partnerships where sports betting is legal could wind up providing all kinds of additional revenue for the teams. A whole lotta folks like to do a little betting with their sports, and the ability to do it incrementally at baseball games is really quite significant. I would expect many more teams to be following suit as more and more states legalize sports betting.
Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said in a release announcing a multiyear partnership with DraftKings, “An increasing number of sports fans want to integrate sports betting into their game experience, and we’re excited to be one of the first to engage in developing a retail sportsbook at a professional sports venue.”
By having a sportsbook right at Wrigley Field, the Cubs could closely serve another significant portion of the fanbase, and also reap the benefits of legalized sports gambling in Illinois. Some of us like to bet on sports, and I can see the allure for some folks in doing it right there in Wrigleyville. You pop in before the game, have a beer, make a wager or two, go to the game.
DraftKings co-founder and president Matt Kalish told ESPN, “It might be the Cubs to win, maybe a few props like first home run, then stroll into the game at 6:45, sit down, sweat my bets and cheer on the Cubs. Then, after the game I can stop back at the DraftKings book, relax with my friends, get some food and drink and think about the next day’s game, maybe put in a few more tickets.”
The precise location for the DraftKings/Cubs sportsbook is yet to be determined, as there are a number of regulatory hurdles to pass before this can be a fully realized operation. It’s not hard to imagine the southeast corner at Addison and Sheffield being a good spot, though, given that it’s where the former DraftKings bar area used to be (after it was the Captain Morgan Club).
There may also be additional development space at Gallagher Way on the northwest side of the park, but I’m thinking the Cubs may prefer to take advantage of that space over on the southeast corner.
As for a timeline, Crain’s reports that the Cubs are targeting the sportsbook being in operation by the end of 2022, which seems to be plenty of lead time, though we’ve seen how the regulatory and legislative process can go when the Cubs try to do ANYTHING at Wrigley Field.
For obvious reasons, MLB team owners cannot also own a sports betting operation there at their park, so the Ricketts Family wouldn’t be able to own this new sportsbook. But the Cubs can partner with DraftKings to operate the book, and reap significant new sources of revenue from the operation. This could be major, major news for the organization in the long-term.
As for DraftKings, they’re already in operation in Illinois in a partnership with Casino Queen in East St. Louis. Although Illinois had previously required an in-person registration to start betting there, that requirement is currently suspended. That means you can now register and begin betting on sports in Illinois from anywhere within the state’s limits.