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September 7, 2023

Here’s a look at downtown Hartford’s new sports betting facility; opens Saturday 

Greg Bordonaro Construction crews on Thursday were putting the finishing touches on the new sports betting facility in downtown Hartford.

A long-awaited sports bar and sports betting venue at the western edge of Hartford’s XL Center will debut on Saturday with a soft opening, just as the NFL season gets underway.

Doors will open Sept. 9 at around 11 a.m. and close around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., according to Michael Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority. 

A more formal grand opening will take place Sept. 18.

Freimuth on Thursday provided the Hartford Business Journal a tour of the 5,000-square-foot betting lounge that can seat 90 people and hold up to 300 people. 

The facility, which was built as part of a broader $15 million XL Center upgrade, was originally supposed to debut last fall but got held up by supply chain and labor shortage issues.

The Connecticut Lottery Corp. will run the sports betting operations, dividing profits with CRDA, which will manage the sports bar.

Freimuth said he doesn’t yet have an estimate as to how much revenue is expected to come from sports betting. CRDA will invest its share of net profits to operate, maintain and upgrade the XL Center.

The sports betting venue, however, comes with benefits beyond a new revenue stream.

The lounge served as the impetus for a facelift to a drab side of the XL Center that previously resembled a massive concrete bunker. A raised glass wall now faces the street, forming one wall of a modern sports bar and restaurant incorporated in a betting lounge on the upper deck of the arena. 

Allyn Street boost

The facility offers 86 Samsung TV screens to follow games. This hospitality amenity faces the sluggish Allyn Street entertainment corridor.

Once a hotbed of city nightlife, the Allyn Street area has been relatively quiet in recent years. There have been tentative signs of life lately, with several operators declaring plans to open restaurants in the area, adding to a handful already in operation.

Freimuth said the sports lounge will operate seven days a week, generally from morning until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. The schedule could vary if a big game runs later, he said.

Patrons can visit to enjoy the sports bar whether they intend to bet or not, and people can bet without buying food or beverage.

Patrons will be able to place bets on a vast array of sports, except for Jai alai and horse racing, as those are permitted in other venues under another license. Betting on Connecticut-based college sports teams is also off the table, under the 2021 state legislation that authorized the creation of 15 sports betting lounges in Connecticut.

The XL Center lounge will be Connecticut’s 10th sports betting facility and satisfy a condition of the 2021 legislation requiring two of the locations be set aside for Hartford and Bridgeport. 

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