Sports Betting At Chicago Stadiums Approved By City Council

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After a drawn-out battle, Chicago’s City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday permitting sportsbooks inside or adjacent to five Chicago stadiums. Illinois’ sports betting law allows for sportsbook to be housed within pro sports facilities, but a number of aldermen, in addition to the owner of Rush Street Gaming — who is among those who have submitted bids to build a casino-resort within city limits — had objected to the ordinance along the way.

Wednesday’s approval means sportsbooks are now permitted at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, Soldier Field (Bears), the United Center (Bulls, Blackhawks), Guaranteed Rate Field (White Sox) and Wintrust Arena (Chicago Sky, DePaul University).

On Monday, while lobbying the City Council’s Joint Committee on Zoning and License, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said construction would start as soon as approval was granted on a restaurant with a sportsbook that will be open for the 2023 Major League Baseball season. The Cubs have a partnership with DraftKings.

Despite objections that led to the ordinance being modified on several occasions before Monday’s decision by the Joint Committee to advance the ordinance to the City Council floor, Wednesday’s vote came without debate, according to WTTW. One alderman did voice concern Wednesday about the lack of minority participation in the process, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot added a provision to the ordinance on Monday in an attempt to address the issue, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Sports Betting Impact On Casinos

Gross revenues on sports betting at these facilities will be taxed at a rate of 19%, including 2% imposed by the city as Lightfoot worked to appease those arguing the sportsbooks would cut into revenue generated by the eventual casino-resort. The city’s cut from the casino-resort’s profit will be used to help fund its public pensions.

WTTW reports that Jennie Huang Bennett, Chicago’s chief financial officer, said the 2% tax will generate between $400,000 to $500,000 per year for the city.

On Wednesday, Ricketts phoned into the public comments portion of the Council meeting to insist sportsbooks at stadiums wouldn’t impact the casino-resort or the city’s take from the casino-resort.

“As shown by the experience in other jurisdictions, testimony of large casino operators and the conclusion of the only independent study — the study commissioned by the city — this will not have an economic impact on the viability of any potential future Chicago casino,” Ricketts said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Ricketts said the restaurant/sportsbook will draw people to Wrigley Field on days when the Cubs aren’t playing, which he said will help the economic health of the surrounding area. He also said it will help Chicago’s professional sports teams compete with opponents who are monetizing sports betting in their respective states.

Aside from the aldermen who expressed concerns, Neil Bluhm, whose Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming operates Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, was the biggest critic of the ordinance before it passed.

The ordinance also allows for a sportsbook at the eventual casino-resort, as well as at two off-track betting businesses licensed in the state.

About the Author
Mark Ashenfelter

Mark Ashenfelter

Mark Ashenfelter is a Connecticut-based sportswriter and editor who has covered everything from NASCAR to the Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles. A life-long Philadelphia sports fan, in addition to Penn State football and the Baltimore Orioles, he's previously worked at ESPN, NASCAR Scene magazine and the Daily Local News in Chester County, PA.

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