XL Center from Ann Uccello Street.
XL Center from Ann Uccello Street on Aug. 29, 2023. Credit: Mike Savino / CTNewsJunkie

Fans going to the XL Center will soon have a new way to experience basketball, hockey, and other events as a sportsbook is set to open there in mid-September.

Capital Region Development Authority Executive Director Michael Freimuth said the new sportsbook is tentatively set to open to the public on Sept. 18. 

That date would mean the venue, which will include a bar and restaurant, will be open for business just a few weeks into the NFL and NCAA football seasons. The NFL is the league that draws the most bets. 

“That’s precisely the point,” Freimuth said. “We didn’t want to miss the football season.” 

The 5,000-square foot space will operate independently from the rest of the XL Center, meaning people go eat or place bets even when the building is not hosting an event. 

People can also go to the restaurant on game days, but will need a ticket to enter the arena from the sportsbook. 

The sportsbook will be on the Ann Uccello Street side of the XL Center, facing Allyn Street. 

“The back of the building was a notorious concrete bunker,” Freimuth said.

The sportsbook will be able to seat 300 customers and will have 80 televisions, as well as kiosks and a counter for betting. 

“Maybe for a basketball game, it might be more active than for a family ice show,” Freimuth joked. 

Although people visiting the XL Center on game days usually won’t be able to bet on the event. State law prohibits betting on Connecticut-based collegiate teams, such as the University of Connecticut. 

Most sportsbooks, including those with licenses to operate in Connecticut, don’t offer betting on minor league sports. The Hartford Wolfpack are a minor league affiliate of the NHL’s
New York Rangers. 

The XL Center has hosted postseason NCAA basketball, but nothing is scheduled for the near future. 

The CDRA and Connecticut Lottery Corp. will run the business together: CDRA will handle the restaurant and bar, while the Lottery will be responsible for the sportsbook. 

The Lottery did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday. 

The Lottery is currently looking for a new partner after Rush Street Interactive, which operates the SugarHouse online gaming platform, announced in March that it is getting out of a 10-year agreement after less than two years. 

Rush Street has said it will continue to operate until the Lottery finds a new vendor, but both sides expect to conclude the process before the end of the year. 

CDRA officials told the legislature Rush Street’s decision was slowing down the opening, but Freimuth said Tuesday the authority and Lottery decided to move ahead with plans. 

“The only impact it’s had on us is what the signs will say,” he said. 

CDRA had set an opening date for Sept. 1, which is Friday. Freimuth said the CDRA is still finishing some “punch list items” and didn’t want to open over a holiday weekend. 

The sportsbook will have a soft opening next week, inviting guests to visit the restaurant and place bets.

“We’ve got to train the staff and, you know, make sure everything’s working,” 

Freimuth said that would put the restaurant on schedule for a Sept. 18 opening, coinciding with two Monday Night Football games in the second week of the NFL season. He was confident the opening would happen sometime that week. 

The Lottery has been a distant third to the other online sportsbooks in Connecticut, DraftKings and FanDuel. 

According to data from the Department of Consumer Protection, the Lottery and Rush Street have seen just $13.85 million in gross gaming revenue from online sports betting since October 2021 and another $17 million from retail sales. That’s totaled roughly $3.25 million in revenue for the state. 

Mohegan Sun Casino, in partnership with FanDuel, has seen $93 million in gross revenue just from online sports gambling and $12 million for the state. 

Foxwoods Casino, which has partnered with DraftKings, has made $78.9 million in revenue and paid the state $10.8 million. 

The Lottery is approved to offer betting at 15 retail sportsbooks, but so far only has nine locations in partnership with parimutuel operator Sportech. Sportech also did not respond to a request for comment.

The XL Center location will be the Lottery’s 10th location. 

Connecticut’s law limited the number of licensed online sportsbooks to just three entities, the two Tribal Casinos and the Lottery, and their partners. Foxwoods and Mohegan can also offer casino games. 

Massachusetts, by comparison, has allowed eight licensed online sportsbooks. New York has nine licensed operators. 

Rhode Island recently approved online sports betting Bally’s Corporation, which operates the state’s two casinos, will be the only licensed operator.