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Cubs, DraftKings partner on proposed Wrigley Field sportsbook

Chicago Cubs logoWell, this takes all the fun out of gambling in the bleachers: the Chicago Cubs are partnering with DraftKings to propose a sportsbook at Wrigley Field, a development that will surely inspire plenty of regulatory scrutiny.

The announcement from the Cubs is a confirmation of what’s been discussed for more than a year: that the team would seek a Wrigley Field sportsbook after the state of Illinois moved forward with legalized sports betting.

“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,” Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ president of business operations, said in a statement.

Gambling in the Wrigley Field bleachers is a proud tradition of the Bleacher Bums, though as Wrigley Field has been gentrified there seems to be less of it happening. Part of the fun, of course, is the fact that it’s banned; forbidden fruit always tastes the best. There’s just something a little antiseptic about whipping out a cellphone and placing a bet than whipping out a wad of bills and laying down a bet the old-fashioned way.

Sports teams have taken different approaches to legalized gambling in their venues: the Colorado Rockies/Denver Nuggets have partnered with PointsBet on a promo deal, but the bets must be placed physically outside the area or via app; Monumental Sports and Entertainment is rapidly turning to betting as a major offering for Wizards, Capitals and Mystics games with a temporary sportsbook already set up in the Capital One Arena lobby, partnering with William Hill US. (A permanent sports book is under construction.) No word on what a DraftKings/Cubs relationship would entail past the likelihood of a branded gambling app, though technically DraftKings would be the outfit legally applying to own and operate the sportsbook.

After a few states, including Illinois, approved online sports betting, we’ve not seen a rush of sportsbooks hit the market, as many predicted. However, with COVID-19 impacting the bottom line of every MLB and MiLB team, we expect more teams to rush plans for legalized sports betting: the same legislation that enabled a Wrigley Field sportsbook also allows one at Guaranteed Rate Field, and with the Chicago White Sox’s broadcasting partner, NBC Sports Chicago/NBCUniversal, acquiring a small stake in the aforementioned PointsBet, it’s likely we will see some sort of similar situation on the South Side.

The inevitable outcome: sports broadcasts built not around traditional play-by-play, but rather focused on the gambling aspects of a game. We discuss that very outcome in this weeks Ballpark Digest Broadcasters Chat.

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