Michael Jordan, Wrigley Field: It’s all about DraftKings winning Illinois’ competitive market By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports September 5, 2020 at 5:00 am After two moves this week, sports betting operator DraftKings has firmly planted its company’s flag in Illinois. In a span of 24 hours, DraftKings brought Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan – and his six NBA championship rings – on as a special advisor to the Boston-based company’s board, and then announced an agreement with the Chicago Cubs to develop a sportsbook at Wrigley Field, one of Major League Baseball’s most storied ballparks. Both deals were highly lauded. DraftKings entered the state in July by acquiring the naming rights to a riverboat casino in East St. Louis, Illinois. The company quickly added a retail sportsbook and launched mobile sports wagering at the now-renamed Draft Kings at Casino Queen, located across the Mississippi River from populous St. Louis. Gaming observers view Illinois as a competitive and potentially lucrative sports betting market. Benchmark Company equity analyst Mike Hickey told The Action Network’s Darren Rovell in August that Illinois sports betting presented a $700 million revenue opportunity. Las Vegas-based Global Market Advisors once predicted the state could see nearly $5.2 billion in annual wagers by 2023. That estimate, however, was made before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the targeted numbers are plausible, given that legal sports betting is now available in 18 states and revenues from the activity grew more than 10% nationwide in the first six months of 2020, despite the prolonged shutdowns of both casinos and college and professional sports. DraftKings, it should be noted, is not operating alone in Illinois. The Illinois-based Rush Street Gaming, via BetRivers, offers both retail and mobile sports betting through the company’s Rivers Casino Des Plaines, which sits roughly 20 miles north of downtown Chicago. DraftKings headquarters in Boston William Hill US also launched sports betting in the state last month at Caesars Entertainment’s Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, and FanDuel, through its partnership with Boyd Gaming, has a similar set up at the Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria. And waiting in the wings is Penn National Gaming and its partnership with sports media platform Barstool Sports. The companies are developing both Barstool-branded sportsbooks and a mobile sports betting app. So how serious is DraftKings about Illinois? Last month’s Twitter dust-up between DraftKings and Rush Street over remote mobile sports wagering sign-ups in the state signaled an aggressive turning point. CEO Jason Robins deleted his harsh Tweet, but, according to Rovell, DraftKings spent more than $1 million in marketing on Aug. 24 to entice Illinois sports bettors to sign up for the company’s mobile app that day. In honor of the late Kobe Bryant’s birthday, and to celebrate his 81-point single-game scoring effort, new DraftKings customers could wager $50 on the Los Angeles Lakers as 81-point underdogs that evening against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers won by 20 points, and each $50 wager paid off $45.45. Gaming analysts took notice of DraftKings’ aggressiveness. So did the investment community. The company’s shares rose more than 8% on the Nasdaq following the Jordan news. Eilers and Krejcik gaming analyst Chris Krafcik humorously suggested other sports betting companies were seeking out Jordan’s former teammates. “Want a share price boost in this Web 1.0-looking market?” Krafcik said. “Don’t bother with an official league data partnership or even a team advertising deal. Get yourself a special advisor. Rumor mill says that BetMGM is eyeing up (Scottie) Pippen and PointsBet has brought on ‘Rodzilla’ (Dennis Rodman).” Wrigley Field in Chicago, home of the Chicago Cubs. What’s unclear is the impact of a sportsbook at Wrigley Field. Illinois sports betting laws allow sportsbooks in Chicago’s stadiums and arenas, and the NFL is warming up to sports betting, but a sportsbook at Chicago’s Soldier Field has as much chance of happening as Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky throwing a pass within 15 yards of an open receiver. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was lukewarm on a Wrigley Field sportsbook, telling the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday that, “There’s got to be tight restrictions on this. We’re not going to turn our neighborhoods into the Las Vegas Strip.” What is strange is the hostility toward gambling by at least one member of the Chicago Cubs-owning Ricketts family. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts authored a scathing commentary on his website last month opposing casino expansion in the state. DraftKings President Matt Kalish told ESPN a Wrigley Field sportsbook would be a “destination flagship” and “potentially one of the biggest sportsbooks in the country.” Welcome to the Land of Lincoln. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.