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February 5, 2024

XL Center sports gambling lounge on pace for six-figure deficit in first year; gamblers wagered nearly $1M through Dec.

Greg Bordonaro | Hartford Business Journal The new sports betting facility at the XL Center in downtown Hartford.

A long-awaited sports betting lounge that opened on the western edge of the XL Center in downtown Hartford could end the fiscal year in June with a deficit as high as $750,000.

The 5,000-square-foot sports bar and betting venue off Ann Uccello Street, part of a $15 million package of upgrades to the XL Center, opened Sept. 9.

It has since run a $284,100 deficit through December, which puts it on course for a $600,000 to $750,000 deficit by the close of the 2024 fiscal year, which ends June 30, according to Capital Region Development Authority Chief Financial Officer Joseph Geremia.

Geremia delivered his forecast during a recent CRDA board of directors meeting. CRDA is an economic development agency that, among other tasks, oversees the city’s sports and entertainment arena.

The XL Center itself already runs an average annual deficit of $2 million, a cost that boosters argue is worth bearing given the facility’s ability to bring thousands of patrons downtown when it hosts an event.

The Connecticut Lottery Corp., one of three licensed sportsbook operators in Connecticut, predicted CRDA would be able to “offset” anticipated losses from the sports bar through betting receipts, “but we haven’t seen that volume come through here,” Geremia said.

From September through December, gamblers wagered $937,076 at the XL Center sportsbook, according to data from the Department of Consumer Protection, and took home $797,332 in winnings.

The sportsbook through December generated $18,000 in net profits that have been turned over to the CRDA, Geremia said.

CRDA Executive Director Michael Freimuth said the sportsbook was challenged by a change in gambling vendor, which caused a lull in activity. Marketing for the sports betting lounge has also not yet launched in force, he said.

New York City-based Fanatics Betting and Gaming in December took over as Connecticut Lottery’s exclusive retail and mobile sports betting provider, including at the XL Center. Fanatics replaced Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive, which backed out of a 10-year deal with CT Lottery after two years. Rush Street indicated to investors it ended the deal early because it wasn’t profitable enough.

Freimuth said CRDA anticipated a loss of about $400,000 in the first year, as the facility gains traction.

“It’s a new startup, really,” Freimuth said. “It takes a while to get established.”

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