Illinois has long had a measure in the works to allow the state’s professional sports facilities to house sportsbooks. DraftKings has already partnered with the Cubs and Wrigley Field in anticipation of in-arena sportsbooks receiving legislative approval. But Wrigley and DraftKings — alongside Soldier Field, the United Center, and other Chicago stadiums with a capacity of over 17,000 — have to put sports betting hopes on ice for the time being.
A contentious hearing held Monday saw fierce debate from both sides, pitting Alderman Walter Burnett’s in-stadium sports betting legislation against opponents who believe the bill would cannibalize revenue from a yet-to-be-approved Chicago casino.
A Look At Both Sides
Alderman Burnett was “baffled” by the opposition, according to WTTW. Illinois’ sports betting law, passed in 2019, allows for in-stadium books, though there’s been little meaningful progress toward an actual retail sportsbook at a Chicago stadium since the measure’s inception.
The city would charge $50,000 for a license to operate such a sportsbook with a $25,000 annual renewal fee. But Chicago would not earn a percentage of each wager placed at these books, while it would receive such a cut from the proposed casino projects.
Various members of the Chicago City Council expressed concern that in-stadium sportsbooks could siphon revenue from the city’s planned downtown casino. The city estimates the casino project could bring in $200 million in annual revenue, staving off tax increases.
As it stands, the measure to allow sports betting at Chicago stadiums remains in limbo, and much hinges on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office, which has yet to comment. Lightfoot has previously expressed opposition to the initiative.
Chicago’s Casino Proposals
Chicago currently has five bids to build a casino in the city, proposed by three firms. Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming is behind two of the bids. Rush Street proposed one casino at McCormick Place and one in the South Loop. Bally’s Corporation submitted two proposals as well, and Hard Rock rounds out the list.