Illinois May Allow Pro Teams To Compete for Sports Betting Dollars 

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Illinois sports betting is a big moneymaker. Retail and mobile sportsbooks tied to casinos and tracks have generated more than $1 billion in revenue within two years after the state’s 2020 launch. While Illinois law allows for sportsbooks to be placed at professional sports venues, pro franchises are not on the list of sports betting licensees.

Well, not yet anyway. 

A bill has been filed in the Illinois House of Representatives that would allow professional sports teams to apply for an Illinois sports betting license and get in on the action. Proposed on Nov. 21 by Chicago-area State Rep. Lamont J. Robinson, Jr., the legislation would add pro teams to the list of eligible state sports wagering licensees in the state. 

Under the current structure, pro franchises are able to generate revenue through sponsorships with sports betting companies. Under Robinson’s bill, teams would be allowed to participate as sports betting licensees.

If more than one team plays their home games in the same venue – as is the case at both United Center and Soldier Field – the franchises would have to agree on how licensing would proceed. In some cases, teams, rather than the venue, could apply for a sports betting license (with the facility’s permission).

It’s a new wrinkle for a state that is expected to launch in-person sports betting at two Chicago pro sports venues sometime next year. Both United Center (FanDuel) and Wrigley Field (DraftKings) are expected to open in-person sportsbooks with their operators in 2023, pending final approval by the Illinois Gaming Board. 

Agreements Key To Proposed Legislation

The Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks are two of seven major league teams in Illinois that would likely have to work out some revenue-sharing agreement should Robinson’s proposal advance. Both teams call United Center home. 

The other major league teams in Illinois and their home venues are listed below: 

Chicago Cubs (MLB) – Wrigley Field

Chicago White Sox (MLB) – Guaranteed Rate Stadium

Chicago Bears (NFL) – Soldier Field

Chicago Sky (WNBA) – Wintrust Arena

Chicago Fire FC (MLS) – Soldier Field

Illinois moved closer to in-person sports betting at its seven largest pro sports venues when the city of Chicago lifted a city ban on sports betting last December. Besides Wrigley Field and United Center, plans could soon be in the works for sportsbooks at Guaranteed Rate Field, Soldier Field, and Wintrust Arena. 

Enough Betting To Go Around

Allowing professional sports teams to vie for sports betting licenses is an idea that has worked in Arizona and is about to be put to the test in Ohio, which launches retail and mobile sports betting on Jan. 1. 

Illinois looks like a good fit for the Arizona and Ohio model. The state certainly has enough revenue to go around. 

Two years after casino closures stalled signups during the pandemic, Illinois is near the top in terms of sports betting revenue. The state’s overall sports betting handle totaled $8.5 billion in fiscal year 2022, making it the third-largest sports betting market behind New York and New Jersey, according to the Chicago TribuneRevenue generated from that handle topped $600 million – with all of those bets so far placed through retail and mobile sportsbooks licensed to casinos and horse tracks.

In September, Illinois became one of only a handful of states to pass $1 billion in sports betting revenue since the US Supreme Court turned sports betting legalization over to the states in 2018.

Illinois online sports betting is available through 10 apps. In-person sports betting is available at seven casinos and two horse tracks.

Besides licensing of casinos, tracks, and sports venues, the state’s 2019 sports betting law allows up to three standalone online licenses not tied to any location. State lawmakers will be able to consider adding teams to the list of potential licensees as early as January.

The Illinois General Assembly returns to work on Jan. 11.  

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Writer and Contributor
Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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