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Despite baseball’s toxic relationship with gambling in the past, the sport seems to be on the verge of widely adopting gambling in ballparks in states where wagering has been legalized.
The first ballpark to test this relationship is at historic Wrigley Field, home to the Cubs, in Chicago.
With the recent passage of the sports betting bill in Illinois, legislators looking to maximize revenues offered owners of sports teams a way to get in on the action by legalizing betting at ballparks.
As it stands, the sportsbook could be inside or near the ballpark as plans are in the introductory phase.
But just the news of Wrigley Field becoming home to a sportsbook is a dramatic turnaround for a sport that has a long history of rejecting gamblers in the game.
Potential offerings at Wrigley could include betting windows, automated kiosks or even a complete sportsbook that would rival those in Las Vegas.
The preliminary discussions for Wrigley Field and other nearby ballparks are underway as the state begins their ramp-up of implementing the recently-passed sports betting law.
As it stands currently, Major League Baseball does not allow sports betting in the form of sportsbooks, kiosks, or betting windows inside a team’s ballpark.
Similarly, the NBA has rules that does not allow betting establishments along the lines of MLB.
However, with the new Illinois legislation, both leagues understand that they may be in for a challenge.
When asked by ESPN about the new law, MLB said, “We will work with our clubs to explore the opportunities presented by the rapidly evolving sports betting landscape in a socially responsible manner.”
When sponsor of the Illinois sports betting bill, Rep. Mike Zalewski, began his attempt to move the measure through the legislative process, both leagues tried to attach integrity fees.
After legislators rebuffed the league’s efforts, the compromise from lawmakers included adding rights for the ballparks and stadiums to offer sports betting.
According to Rep. Zalewski, both leagues were in favor of the ballpark-betting amendment.
“It didn’t surprise me that the (ballparks) concept was raised (by the leagues),” Zalewski told ESPN.
“My sense was the leagues and teams, and the Cubs specifically, were looking for unorthodox ways to capitalize the ballparks in an age where fans are glued to their phones.”
Another wrinkle to the Cubs connection to sports betting comes from the team’s owner, Tom Ricketts investing in the sports betting media outlet, The Action Network.
With the Cubs beginning a new channel next season, the odds are high that the media outlet could host a show on the network integrating betting information and access to the team.
Experts in the betting field think that a sportsbook at a historic sports location like Wrigley Field could offer huge returns for the state and the club.
“Look, Wrigley Field draws people year round,” Vic Salerno, founder of sportsbook operator US Bookmaking.
“It’s going to be a great location for them.”
With the baseball season close to the halfway point, rumors of a potential sportsbook will only intensify until the Cubs and MLB make a final decision.
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