Sports betting inside stadiums is much closer to reality than anyone realized as little as six months ago, as 2019 has seen a series of bills passed paving the way for sports teams to become operators of the largest sportsbooks in the world.
Illinois recently joined 12 other states to legalize sports betting, and a unique precedent was set along the way. In passing their bill, Illinois became the first state to include language that would allow sports venues to take bets during games.
A couple of weeks later, the New York Senate followed suit, passing a bill with similar language. The New York bill will allow any “professional sports stadium or arena” that can seat at least 15,000 people to take bets from kiosks.
The Illinois bill, however, goes one step further.
What Makes the Illinois Legislation Unique?
Placing bets inside of a sports venue is something that is done regularly in Europe but has never been seen in the United States. But a full-blown sportsbook built inside of a stadium is something we have never seen before period.
What makes the Illinois sports betting bill unique is that not only can professional teams go ahead and book bets inside their arenas, but they’re also allowed a generous five-block radius to build sportsbooks in and around the stadium.
The Illinois bill extends to any sports facility that has a capacity of at least 17,000 people. This would include venues such as Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field, United Center, and Soldier Field. Multiple sources have reported to ESPN that the Cubs are already looking into both a sports book inside the stadium and in the area surrounding the stadium. A tantalizing prospect for those visiting the Friendly Confines.
The idea of being able to bet on a game at Wrigley the same way you would be able to bet on horses at the racetrack sounded like a fun novelty and a new way for people to enjoy the game. Grabbing a ticket out of a kiosk is a far cry though, from a full-scale sportsbook, which could quickly become one of the most popular parts of any stadium.
Imagine being able to get up for the seventh inning stretch to grab a hot dog and a beer, and on your way back to your seat, you skip across the terrace to two large doors. Behind the doors is a dark opening that transforms into a brand new world of lights. The walls are draped with massive HDTV’s carrying every sporting event you can imagine. Opposite the TV’s is an even larger board with scrolling numbers showing the latest odds.
The Cubs are down 3-2 but have the heart of the order coming up in the bottom of the seventh. You look over to the board and see that the in-play line is currently Cubs +185. You decide to take an extended break and buy a $100 ticket that would pay $285 if the Cubs come back and win. As you sink into a deep, comforting leather chair, you feel both utterly relaxed and yet firing on all synapses as Anthony Rizzo steps to the plate…
How does the New York Bill Differ?
On Monday, the New York Senate passed a bill legalizing mobile sports betting as well as allowing for sports betting at professional stadiums. In New York, the sports arenas can become an “affiliate” of an existing casino in the state. To qualify, the venue must be the “permanent home of a professional sports team playing at the highest level in its sport.” It must also hold a capacity of at least 15,000 people.
New York includes a provision that will not allow bets to be placed at sports arenas until at least 2021. Illinois, on the other hand, should have stadiums offering to take bets as soon as next year.
Washington D.C. Will Likely Have In-Stadium Betting First
While Illinois and New York were the first states to pass legislation allowing sports betting inside of a stadium, Washington D.C. beat them to the punch. In January, the D.C. bill granted “Class A” licenses to Nationals Park, Capital One Arena, St. Elizabeth’s East Entertainment and Sports Arena, and Audi Field.
Franchise owner Ted Leonsis has led the charge in D.C. He recently bought a sports bar adjacent to the building that houses both D.C. teams he owns, the Wizards and Capitals. The space is set to be used as the site for the country’s first sportsbook in a stadium.
“There will be a sportsbook inside the building accessible from the outside, and depending on the league and depending on the event, it might be accessible from the inside as well,” said Leonsis at the American Gaming Association’s Sports Betting Executive Summit. Sportsbooks in D.C. could be open as soon as this September, according to officials.
How are the Leagues Reacting?
While sportsbooks and betting kiosks are currently not allowed by MLB, in a statement to ESPN league officials said, “we will work with our clubs to explore the opportunities presented by the rapidly evolving sports betting landscape in a socially responsible manner.”
Reading through the vagueness of that response, MLB likely needs to figure out how to split up each piece of the pie before allowing teams to build sportsbooks. Unfortunately, that could mean no betting in MLB stadiums until the next collective bargaining agreement is ironed out. The current CBA is set to expire in 2021.
The NFL has always publicly remained against legal sports betting, as their product ironically continues to gain in popularity due in large part to fantasy sports. Earlier this year though, the NFL entered an agreement with Caesars Entertainment to be the first official Casino Sponsor of the NFL. The NFL will do what it has always done and go where the money is, so there is little doubt that the league will embrace this new era, just as soon as they can guarantee their cut.