Connecticut: New sports betting venue at Hartford’s XL Center set to open on September 18th

After months of anticipation, the $5 million sports betting venue in downtown Hartford’s XL Center is set to welcome patrons on September 18th, coinciding with an NFL doubleheader.

Christopher Davis, spokesperson for the Connecticut Lottery Corp., discussed the strategic choice of this date, saying: “It’s the perfect night for it because there is going to be two Monday night football games. Fans will be able to come in and check out both games that night and check out the new facility.”

The venue, accessible from the corner of Church and Ann Uccello streets, will open its doors at 5:30 p.m., with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for 6 p.m. Preceding the grand opening, a “soft opening” is on the agenda for the week leading up to the official launch, but specific dates and times are yet to be finalized, according to Davis.

The sportsbook, one of the largest in the state, was made possible by an expansive move to legalize gambling nearly two years ago. Anticipated to draw visitors to the XL Center even on non-event days, this sports betting hub aims to provide a revenue stream for an arena that has faced financial challenges for an extended period.

New XL Center sports betting lounge rendering

The venue will boast 14 self-service kiosks for betting, along with two counters for placing bets. It will also feature a full bar and dining menu. A 250-foot long, scrolling ticker will offer real-time sports scores and news updates, complemented by over 80 video monitors, some strategically positioned along a new glass wall facing Ann Uccello Street. Davis emphasized that patrons can also gather to enjoy food and drinks while watching televised games, not solely for gambling purposes.

Sports enthusiasts will have the opportunity to place bets on a wide range of sports, excluding Jai Alai and horse racing, which are permitted in other venues under different licenses. Connecticut-based college sports team betting is also off the table, following the 2021 state legislation that allowed for the creation of 15 sports betting lounges in Connecticut.

On days when events are scheduled at the XL Center, attendees can access the betting venue from the street at the rear of the arena without requiring additional tickets. Ticket holders will have the freedom to move between the sportsbook and the arena by presenting their event tickets.

New XL Center sports betting lounge rendering

While the exact operating hours are still under consideration, it is likely that the venue will be open seven days a week, spanning from either 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.

The sports betting lounge, with a capacity of 300 people, is part of a broader $15 million renovation package for the XL Center. Initially, it was intended to debut for the 2022 NFL football season.

The opening of the sportsbook experienced a year-long delay due to supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. Delays ranged from construction materials like glass and HVAC components to even chips for video display boards.

Initially aimed to coincide with the start of the NFL’s regular season on September 7th, the opening was postponed to September 18th due to last-minute adjustments. Optimism surrounds this sportsbook as it could pave the way for a much-needed $107 million renovation of the 16,000-seat arena, potentially commencing as early as next year.

New XL Center sports betting lounge rendering

Michael Freimuth, Executive Director of the Capital Region Development Authority, stated that revenue projections from sports betting have not been finalized yet. The CRDA will manage the sports bar, and they will have access to all the net profits from betting to support the operation, maintenance, and upgrades of the XL Center.

The XL Center’s sports lounge will be the tenth in Connecticut, fulfilling the 2021 legislation’s requirement of reserving two locations for Hartford and Bridgeport. An announcement regarding the Bridgeport location is expected in the coming weeks, according to Davis.