Cubs Reportedly Interested in Wrigley Field Sportsbook as MLB Considers Embracing Betting to Attract Fans

Posted on: June 16, 2019, 09:59h. 

Last updated on: June 16, 2019, 09:59h.

Chicago’s Wrigley Field, long known as “The Friendly Confines,” may soon become friendlier to sports betting.

Chicago’s Wrigley Field could allow a sportsbook to operate within the historic ballpark if Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs a bill allowing sports betting in the state. (Image: Steven Burke/Stadium Journey)

Over the weekend, ESPN reported that the Chicago Cubs were contemplating setting up a sportsbook at the historic baseball stadium. The potential move comes as Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker considers signing SB 690, which was sent to him on June 5.

The bill would legalize sports betting in the state, and it includes a provision to allow in-person betting at a stadium or arena that holds at least 17,000 people as long as the professional sports team or teams allow it.

Cubs officials did not respond to the report. However, a league official told the network MLB would at least entertain the idea.

“We will work with our clubs to explore the opportunities presented by the rapidly evolving sports betting landscape in a socially responsible manner,” the report quoted a league spokesperson as saying.

The network also reported that other Chicago stadiums were considering taking advantage of the opportunity if the bill becomes law. That includes Guarantee Rate Field, the state-owned ballpark where the Chicago White Sox play.

Under Illinois law, Pritzker has Aug. 4 to sign or veto the bill. If he does neither within that timeframe, the legislation automatically becomes law.

MLB Betting on Fan Engagement?

The Cubs news comes as MLB officials have explored ways to use betting to increase fan interest.

While league officials have looked at ways to speed up the game’s pace, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said late last year that the slower pace of play may be conducive to in-game betting as bettors would have more time to bet on the outcome of an at bat or inning.

In a Baseball America article last week, an MLB official doubled down on that sentiment.

Imagine a game that is not competitive in the late innings but continues to attract people’s interest because they can engage with that game through sports betting,” MLB deputy general counsel Bryan Seeley said.

Many sports gambling pundits consider in-game betting the future of the industry, especially as mobile and online betting increase in the years to come. In addition, an American Gaming Association study found that 44 percent of those who wager on sports are age 35 or younger.

In contrast, a Sports Business Journal survey two years ago found the average MLB fan was age 57, compared to 52 in 2006.

Leagues Seek Revenue

As legal sports betting becomes more prevalent across the country, the major professional leagues have changed their tune on legal sports betting. While they once steadfastly opposed the concept, the leagues now look for ways to work with states and sportsbooks. However, that new tack includes a carrot-and-stick philosophy.

The professional leagues have stepped up their lobbying efforts to push for more control over sports betting. That includes asking states to require licensed sportsbooks to purchase official league data to score bets. In states that do not have the requirement in place, leagues have threatened to cut off access to in-game data.

The leagues also have pushed for integrity fees, or a royalty from each bet placed. As they look to generate revenue from expanded sports betting, the players unions in the respective leagues will likely look to negotiate a share of that funding in future collective bargaining negotiations.