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The Cubs could be getting closer to opening a sports book at Wrigley Field

It requires City Council action, which could be taken soon.

In September 2020, the Cubs and DraftKings announced a partnership to open a sports book at Wrigley Field sometime in the future.

There was at least one catch to that announcement:

There are still quite a few things that have to happen before this sportsbook opens, according to this ESPN article. The article notes that regulatory approval has to come from the city of Chicago and the team and DraftKings will have to get a license from the Illinois Gaming Board.

One of those hurdles is about to be overcome, according to this article in the Sun-Times:

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), whose burgeoning Near West Side ward includes the United Center, introduced an ordinance that would lift Chicago’s home-rule ban on sports betting and establish parameters for the city to issue those licenses and make money from it.

Under the plan, sports betting would be authorized either at Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field, Soldier Field, the United Center and Wintrust Arena or in a “permanent building or structure located within a five-block radius” of those stadiums.

The Cubs have space in their office building on Gallagher Way that could be used for such a purpose, or there’s an unused space in the right-field corner of the ballpark (that was at one time going to be a club open to the public) that could host such a club, shown here, at the corner of Addison & Sheffield:

Al Yellon

And then there’s this:

Courtesy Chicago Cubs

This proposed extension of Wrigley Field, shown in this 1060 Project rendering, was never built during the ballpark renovation. Right now that location is an open plaza that hosts statues of Billy Williams and Ron Santo.

However, these caveats exist, per the Sun-Times article, before any such construction could begin at 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 outlawed in Chicago.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward includes Wrigley, has 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 has said he will demand “neighborhood protections,” just as he has every other step along the way.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she will also insist on “tight restrictions” on sports betting.

The Cubs, though, are seeing the possibility of major money coming into the ballclub if and when this is approved. Again from the Sun-Times article:

Cubs spokesman Julian Green has said 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 has 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.”

Gambling on sports events is definitely being seen as the next big source of revenue for sports teams. You can see that in the gambling ads and shows that appear on the Cubs channel Marquee Sports Network, as well as other regional sports networks. It’s almost certainly coming, soon, but as you know, baseball has a fraught relationship with gambling going back to the Black Sox scandal of over a century ago. Even if this sort of sports book is legalized in the city of Chicago (and elsewhere), MLB is going to have to keep tight rein on its players, managers, coaches and other personnel so as to not have a repeat of that sort of thing.

It’s coming, though, and likely sooner rather than later.