DraftKings Sportsbook at Wrigley Field Does Not Have Illinois Sports Betting License

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jun 29, 2023 12:00 AM
The DrafKings location at Wrigley Field has opened without an Illinois sports betting license.

We are now more than one year removed from sports betting in Illinois officially going live. During that time, the market has continued maturing. Revenue has been impressive. The process of Illinois online sports betting has grown rather seamless. New events have been added to the dockets of gambling operators. Retail locations have opened up. And so on and so forth.

If you thought Illinois' sports gambling progression and developments would start to slow down now, well, you'll want to reconsider the notion. The state continues to try pushing forward in basically every way. Regulations are constantly scrutinized. The state, in fact, has started cracking down harder and more frequently than ever on sports betting violations. Tweaks to the tax are frequently bandied about, though they have yet to be implemented. New offerings are always in the mix. Sportsbooks are closing, opening, entering the market, expanding already established presences, etc.

The most recent step forward was brought to Illinois by one of the most popular sports betting sites in the United States: DraftKings just opened their retail sportsbook inside Wrigley Field, the storied home to Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs.

Many have been eagerly anticipating this launch for some time. The location has been on the books for quite a while. And yet, its grand opening was somewhat muted by an awkward—baseball pun incoming—curveball. This wrinkle in question? It turns out the DraftKings Sportsbook at Wrigley Field does not have an Illinois sports betting license.

Naturally, we have to ask: What gives?

Why Doesn't the DraftKings Retail Location at Wrigley Field Have an Illinois Sports Betting License

At first glance, the newly opened DraftKings sportsbook in Illinois looks like it was built to accept wagers while entertaining sports bettors. Extensive write-ups on the location were provided long before the doors ever opened, and the aesthetics are impressive.

This retail spot continues to be called a "sportsbook," even though it doesn't take bets. Talk about confusion. We feel compelled to keep putting "sportsbook" in quotations to emphasize the oddity. Anyway, the "sportsbook" certainly doesn't seem like it was constructed to operate without accepting wagers. It is effectively a sprawling two-story restaurant and bar, with massive televisions airing all sorts of events scattered throughout both floors. DraftKings has made the location both convenient and ultra-accessible, as well. The "sportsbook" has amazing views of Wrigley Field, so fans can easily watch live Chicago Cubs games. But it also features a public entrance outside the stadium; you do not need a ticket to gain admission.

If you're like us, you're thinking: All this for a "sportsbook" that doesn't have an Illinois sports betting license? What the heck is going on here?  Though the question itself feels bizarre to pose, the answer is quiet simple: money. As PlayIllinois' Dave Briggs outlined, the DraftKings "sportsbook" at Wrigley field is essentially in no rush to acquire a license given how much it costs:

"The Wrigley Field sportsbook has been in the works since 2021. But, so far, it is acting more as a promotional tool for DraftKings than a true sportsbook.  Stephen Miraglia, DK’s director of communications, told the Daily Herald that the company’s strategy, “is to identify, with flagship locations like this, high foot traffic areas. What better place than Wrigley Field? IGB spokesperson Beth Kaufman confirmed the license fee to turn it into a sportsbook costs $10 million. While DK has clearly applied to do just that, there’s really no hurry."

Ten million is, in no uncertain terms, a lot. Most states don't charge retail sportsbooks anywhere near that much for the rights to accept wagers. And this raises another question.

Is Illinois Charging Too Much for Sports Betting Licenses?

DraftKings is not the only retail sportsbook in Illinois that has so far opened a "sportsbook" that doesn't actually function as a sportsbook. Another one opened in the United Center, which is home to the NBA's Chicago Bulls. Here's Briggs with more:

"PlayIllinois reached out to the Illinois Gaming Board for clarification about the rules regarding Illinois sportsbooks at professional sports facilities. So far, only two facilities have built sportsbooks: the DK one at Wrigley and a FanDuel sportsbook inside the United Center that opened in NovemberNeither has taken a single sports bet, yet, directly. Only the United Center lounge is officially listed on the IGB website as an applicant for a sports betting license."

Much like DraftKings, FanDuel has reportedly applied for an Illinois sports betting license. But the lack of rush speaks volumes.

Both companies seem perfectly fine using their on-site locations as promotional tools rather than functioning sportsbooks. And that makes sense. Online sports betting in Illinois is perfectly legal, so patrons can easily place wagers on sites using their mobile devices. 

Indeed, the convenience of on-site betting would be good for both sports gambling operators. They could run exclusive in-person promotions. In reality, though, neither are costing themselves a ton of revenue. Their brand awareness will still be through the roof. If you're taking in a game at a DraftKings or FanDuel "sportsbook," chances are you have also downloaded their app. Illinois, it seems, is the only party that may be actively costing itself money.

Will Illinois Change Sports Betting Licensing Fees?

Then again, is Illinois really costing themselves money? Both DraftKings and FanDuel are eventually going to pony up the licensing fee. They might drag their feet during the process, but the state is still making an additional $10 million off each company.

It's not like the retail sports betting fees have deterred other operators, either. The Fanatics sportsbook is already pushing to join the Illinois betting market in time for the 2023 NFL season.

Nevertheless, this $10 million licensing fee feels excessively high. Sure, FanDuel and DraftKings might pay it. But they're among the biggest sports betting companies in the world. What about smaller operators that may want to partner with pro sports teams and open retail locations?

There's also a chance FanDuel and DraftKings simply pull back from the process. If they see a significant uptick in the use of their sports betting apps while people are in their unlicensed "sportsbooks," will they really need to fork over $10 million for what may be a marginal increase in revenue? Heck, would that revenue increase even match the upfront cost over the course of a year?

Only time will tell. But it wouldn't surprise us if Illinois decided to lower their retail sportsbook fees down the line. After all, they already seem to be causing some trepidation.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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