The Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) has been working with the Connecticut Lottery to open a new sports betting venue. The sportsbook will be located in the Hartford XL Center.
After legal sports betting in CT commenced in 2021, legislators approved 15 total sports betting venues in the state. Two of the largest operations are in Hartford and Bridgeport.
A glimpse inside the planned sports betting venue
CRDA recently released renderings of what form the space will take.
The 4,000 square-foot sports betting venue was designed by SCI Architects, P.C. The location is on the arena side facing Ann Uccello Street. The current plan is to enclose the space in glass, assuring high visibility from the sidewalk.
Wagering kiosks and counters will be available, boards will display betting odds, and patrons will have a view of the arena’s floor. The venue will even have a restaurant and bar.
Sports betting venue access will be available to both event ticket holders and walk-in patrons. Customers will be able to come and go between the venue, events, and other areas of the arena.
CRDA Executive Director Mike Freimuth is hopeful that the venue will increase business in the XL Center arena. Speaking of the plans, he says,
“We want to make it a place to be. We want it to be an attraction in and of itself. And we want it to be a place that people know they can go any time of the day or year, and not just when there are events.”
The current space is drab, and Freimuth is confident patrons will welcome the much-needed makeover. He says the location in the XL Center “gives us a level of improvements in a part of the building that we haven’t really worked on.”
XL Center was not the only location considered
While the CRDA ultimately chose the section facing Ann Uccello Street, they also considered other locations. The Coliseum Club on the skybox level and the exhibition hall on the lower level were two initial considerations.
The atrium, which is at the arena’s main Trumbull Street entrance, was also considered. However, the CRDA tried unsuccessfully to purchase the space from Northland Investment Corp.
Connecticut Lottery’s early projections suggest venue success
With a successful start in the first year of legal sports betting in CT, the venue should do well in the XL Center. Freimuth claims the Connecticut Lottery Corp’s (CLC) betting venue revenue projections justify growing gambling operations at the arena.
However, he declined to disclose those projections, and so did the CLC. The XL Center and the lottery are still in negotiations regarding the lottery hosting the new venue and sharing in proceeds.
Successful sports betting may herald more XL Center support
The new sports betting venue projections place the cost at up to $4 million. However, Freimuth said state financing for the project is already in hand from funds approved for arena updates.
Currently, funds for a $100 million renovation at the Connecticut state-operated arena are still pending after years of debate. The State Bond Commission has yet to release the money.
Since the arena typically loses about $2 million per year, critics do not support pouring more money into the facility. On the other hand, supporters of renovation say an arena renovation can only help revitalize downtown and the surrounding areas.
If the sports betting venue successfully brings in more revenue to the facility, critics may sway to support a full renovation for the arena.
The plan is to fast track for a fall venue opening
An early idea included opening an “interim location” to test the public’s interest in a sports betting venue located in the XL Center. However, the CRDA eventually dismissed the idea and decided to plunge ahead with the $4 million plan.
“We figured first blush was going to be lasting blush,” Freimuth said. “And so, we wanted to do it right, once.”
Hopes are for the venue’s grand opening this fall. That way, sports betting revenue is ready to flow from wagers placed at the height of football season.