Wrigley Field would be home to Major League Baseball’s first stadium sportsbook under a $100 million partnership between the Cubs and DraftKings that might include construction of a free-standing sports betting palace on the Wrigley campus.
The Cubs and DraftKings envision adding a sports book and restaurant complex to an existing building or constructing an entirely new facility on the so-called triangle property adjacent to Wrigley Field.
Construction of a new building or renovation of an existing building would require a change to the planned development that paved the way for the Cubs to renovate Wrigley and develop the land around it. So would sports betting of any kind, since gambling is currently outlawed in Chicago.
Over the years, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has been at loggerheads with the Cubs over all things Wrigley — from bleacher expansion and the proliferation of outdoor signage that bankrolled the stadium renovation to the rules governing the outdoor plaza known as Gallagher Way.
On Thursday, Tunney acknowledged sports betting is a “reality across the country” and, more recently, in Illinois and that, “in one way, shape or form, it’s coming to major league sports and to all of the stadiums.”
But if the Cubs and DraftKings intend to build a free-standing betting parlor on the Wrigley campus, the alderman said he will demand “neighborhood protections,” just as he has every other step along the way.
“Sometimes, I kind of see what is going on around the country and see how it’s being rolled out. Hopefully, we won’t make the mistakes that other stadiums have. But I haven’t really seen it in other stadiums around other campuses,” Tunney said.
“I want to know more about how it’s actually gonna be rolled out. We’ll have discussions with the Cubs, the city and the community to make sure that there are neighborhood protections here. … We know that sports betting is here to stay. But the question is: If there’s a physical presence on the campus, how there’s security, how they’re controlling the betting aspect of it? ... I’m gonna work hard on it to make sure it’s a safe environment for everybody.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot backstopped Tunney, just as former Mayor Rahm Emanuel did during previous controversies between the alderman and the Cubs.
“There’s got to be tight restrictions on this. We’re not gonna turn our neighborhoods into the Las Vegas strip,” the mayor said.
“We’re gonna make sure that we are active and engaged, along with the local alderman, to make sure that anything that happens — whether it’s at Wrigley, whether it’s at any other sports venue — is done consistent with the neighborhood’s desires [for] quality of life.”
Cubs spokesman Julian Green described a project that’s a whole lot more than the “storefront” Tunney talked about.
The partners hope to build an addition to the $1 billion Wrigley campus that could be a year-round attraction unto itself, Green said.
“DraftKings says this would be their largest sportsbook in the country … with a food and beverage option and betting. In the winter months, you have Super Bowl. You have March Madness. Having a facility where groups may want to come in and watch the Super Bowl or March Madness — that’s something we could accommodate. We have always had a goal to continue to develop Gallagher Way and have year-round activity around the ballpark,” Green said.
“Where? We don’t know yet. That would be discussed with the city. ... We have a tower where our front office is located. There’s also the space that was part of the planned development over near Sheffield and Addison. The DraftKings club used to be over there. ... Now, we don’t have anything over there on that mini-triangle parcel. We could look at options at the office tower or there.”
As for Tunney’s demand for neighborhood protections, Green said the Cubs would welcome the alderman’s ideas for protecting fans, given the fact that two-thirds of sports fans “want gaming integrated into their sports experience.”
“These are fans already coming to the ballpark,” he said.
He added, “What we have shown having spent $750 million to redevelop the area is that we have always considered the community with anything. And the result of this development has been widely [well-]received by the community.”
In a press release announcing the groundbreaking partnership, Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said DraftKings has been a “great partner for a number or years,” and the Cubs are “excited to expand this relationship as sport betting grows rapidly in Illinois.
“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,” Kenney was quoted as saying.
DraftKings already operates retail sportsbooks in eight states, including a location at Casino Queen in East St. Louis.
“This is truly a historic moment, as we are thrilled to align with the renowned Chicago Cubs franchise and iconic Wrigley Field to provide sports bettors in Chicago with a revolutionary sports betting experience,” DraftKings co-founder and president Matt Kalish said in the joint statement.
Though financial details weren’t disclosed, DraftKings will be the official sports betting and daily fantasy partner of the Cubs.
This is a major step for Major League Baseball, which took a hard stand against betting 100 years ago after the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal that nearly derailed baseball. But in recent years, DraftKings — with its daily fantasy games — has had a cozy partnership with MLB.
“The Cubs have been in touch with us about this partnership, and they are abiding by all of our regulations,” an MLB spokesperson told the Sun-Times.
Because MLB rules prohibit from having a stake in sports gambling, the Ricketts family must remain independent from the sportsbook.