The XL Center and Connecticut Lottery Corp. showed off a new sportsbook at the downtown arena Monday, opening the restaurant, bar, and betting terminals to the public.
Officials also said they hope the opening is the first in a series of announcements for both the CT Lottery and the city of Hartford, which views the sportsbook as a boost for the XL Center and surrounding area.
“This is just an anchor tenant to a city that’s on the go,” Gov. Ned Lamont said during a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The grand opening followed a weeklong “soft launch” and coincided with a Monday Night Football doubleheader to end the second week of the season for the NFL, the league that easily brings in the most revenue from sports bettors.
The 90-seat sportsbook sits on the back side of the XL Center, with an entrance near the intersection of Church and Ann Uccello streets.
The restaurant has a capacity for 300, including standing room. It will be open everyday regardless of whether the XL Center is hosting an event.
Event attendees can access the XL Center through the restaurant, but patrons need a ticket to get into the arena.
City officials said the new sportsbook, which was added to the building’s exterior, is a major visual improvement to the concrete slabs that surrounded the building’s loading dock.
“This whole side of the building was a concrete bunker of concrete and steel that blocked off access to the street,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “It just felt like it had no interaction with the street whatsoever.”
He said he’s hopeful the addition of the restaurant can also spark interest from businesses to the surrounding streets.
Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, meanwhile, said he hopes the restaurant will help reinvigorate the XL Center, originally opened in 1975.
Ritter recalled being able to shop and dine at the venue, once known as the Hartford Civic Center, even when the stadium wasn’t hosting games or events.
“Why can’t we make this place the nicest arena in Connecticut, where families will want to go?” he asked during the press conference.
He hinted at “probably two more exciting announcements” about more investment into the XL center.
The Capital Region Development Authority, which operates the building, is in the process of reviewing bids for an estimated $100 million in renovations to the arena.
The CDRA will handle the restaurant operations for the sportsbook, while the lottery and its partner will manage the gambling.
Meanwhile, the CT Lottery also hopes the ribbon cutting will be the first in a series of announcements in the coming months.
When lawmakers legalized sports betting, they also authorized the lottery to open up to 15 sportsbooks around the state. Each of the two tribal casinos also has their own sportsbook.
The XL center is the 10th location. Lottery President and CEO Greg Smith said the agency is “still actively working on” finding “almost enough (locations) to fill that 15.”
The law required one of those locations to be in Bridgeport.
“There’ll be an announcement on that, call it, in not too many days,” Smith said Monday about a Bridgeport location. “Maybe more than a few days but not more than, let’s say probably in the next week-ish.”
The lottery is also looking for a new sportsbook partner after Rush Street Interactive, which announced in the spring that it wanted out of a 10-year contract just 18 months in.
Rush Street continues to operate its SugarHouse platform while the lottery finds a new partner, and the branding at the new XL Center sportsbook currently has the SugarHouse name on it.
Smith said Rush Street’s announcement has complicated efforts to find locations for the remaining sportsbooks, but he’s confident a new partner will be in place soon.
He said the lottery is currently negotiating with both Rush Street and a new vendor, including on a transition. He would not name the company.
“I am quite hopeful that it happens during the football season,” he said.
The regular NFL’s regular season ends on Jan. 7, and the Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 11.
Through the end of August, the CT Lottery has reported $17.9 million in revenue from retail locations since sports betting was legalized in October 2021 and another $14.6 million from online sports wagering.
That’s produced $4.5 million in revenue for the state, according to data from the Department of Consumer Protection.
The DCP data only includes figures for online sports betting for the two tribal casinos.
Mohegan Sun and its partner, FanDuel, have seen $96 million in gross revenue from online sports gambling, paying $13.2 million for the state.
Foxwoods Resort Casino and DraftKings, meanwhile, have generated $81.8 million from their online sportsbook, sending nearly $11.3 million of that to the state.