A Chicago Dog, a Bavarian Pretzel, and a wager on the Bears game…a fan may be able to do all of these things at Wrigley Field soon if a proposed ordinance is passed by the City Council of Chicago.
27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. and 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins proposed the move this week that would lift the ban on sports gambling within city limits of Chicago. In 2019, Illinois state legislature approved a casino for the Windy City, but no firm plans have been announced for such an endeavor.
The proposal from Burnett and Hopkins would allow professional sports venues to apply for a sports betting license, which is governed by the Illinois Gaming Act. Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, as well as Soldier Field (home of the Bears of the NFL), Guaranteed Rate Field (host to the White Sox), the United Center (which serves as home of the NBA’s Bulls and Blackhawks of the NHL), and Wintrust Arena (host to the WNBA’s Chicago Sky), could all be impacted by a decision on the proposal.
If on-site sports betting were permitted, fans at games in those Chicago arenas and ballparks could place wagers while enjoying games or even when those venues were not hosting games, from a sportsbook retail location. The Cubs already have a $100 million partnership with DraftKings to be their official gaming partner. DraftKings and the team have expressed interest in launching the first retail sportsbook at an MLB location.
Alderman Burnett’s 27th Ward includes the United Center, and he has been a vocal supporter of lifting the ban on sports betting so the city of Chicago can benefit from the tax revenue of such activity. His proposal would permit sports betting inside one of the professional sports venues or at a “permanent building or structure located within a five-block radius” of those locations.
Burnett and Hopkins propose that no one under age 21 would be allowed to place a bet, and restrictions would be in place to limit sports betting to a 10 AM to midnight window, Monday through Thursday; 9 AM to midnight on Friday; and 9 AM to 1 AM on weekends.
“In my community, it’ll bring more people to the United Center,” Burnett told the Chicago Sun-Times. “They may spend more money. It helps with the sales tax and also the amusement that these guys pay. So there is some upside. … There’s more benefits for the state, but there’s some auxiliary benefits for the city.”
Concerns About Sports Betting Within Chicago
The path to legalized sports betting in Chicago and at sports venues will not be without obstacles. The City Council has sent the proposal to committee, which likely means the issue won’t be addressed for months. There are construction and zoning issues with the building of a retail sportsbook in Wrigleyville, and parking concerns for what may be even more sports fans in the impacted areas. Some critics voice concerns that the city could become a gambling attraction that would distract from the many other tourist appeals of the nation’s third-largest city. Still, others are worried that legalized sports betting would steal dollars from a future Chicago casino.