Sports Betting At Chicago Stadiums Takes Step Forward

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An ordinance that would allow sportsbooks inside or adjacent to five Chicago stadiums and arenas advanced to the City Council floor on Monday. While provided for in Illinois’ sports betting law and strongly supported by owners of the city’s pro sports franchises, the plan has drawn opposition from a number of aldermen and the owner of Rush Street Gaming, who has submitted bids to build a casino-resort in the city.

A final vote on the ordinance is set for Wednesday, WTTW reports. The ordinance would permit sports betting inside of, or at a facility within five blocks of, Wrigley Field (home to the Chicago Cubs), Soldier Field (Chicago Bears), the United Center (Blackhawks, Bulls), Guaranteed Rate Field (White Sox), and Wintrust Arena (Chicago Sky, DePaul University).

Earlier this month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot added a 2% city tax on gross revenues from sports betting to the ordinance, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Including state and county taxes, the total tax rate on gross revenues will be 19% if the ordinance passes. The 2% city tax was an attempt to appease aldermen stating the sportsbooks would cut into revenue generated by the proposed casino.

City Council’s Joint Committee on Zoning and License, however, didn’t approve the ordinance until Lightfoot added a provision on Monday requiring teams to file reports stating whether they’re hired companies run by minorities or women to be part of their sportsbooks, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The ordinance cannot mandate hiring practices by the team owners due to state laws, but Lightfoot told the Sun-Times, “We’ll continue to work with them and push them to make sure that they make good on those promises.”

Stadiums Vs. Casinos

While the ordinance passed via a 19-7 vote, there’s no guarantee it will be approved by City Council during Wednesday’s vote. Aldermen have continually expressed concerns the venue-based sportsbooks would take too big of a cut from the expected tax revenues from a casino, revenue that would be used to fund Chicago’s public pensions, according to the Tribune.

Neil Bluhm, whose Rush Street Gaming operates Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, said Monday the five “mini-casinos” would decrease revenue from the casino-resort when it’s constructed.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who has a partnership with DraftKings, told the City Council’s Committee on Zoning and License on Monday that what he proposes for Wrigley Field is a restaurant with a sportsbook and nothing akin to a casino.

“This is not a casino or even a mini-casino. It’s a sports bar-restaurant,” Ricketts said, according to the Sun-Times. “… It only allows for fans who wish to place a wager to have a window to do so. I expect many fans will come to the sportsbook and never place a bet,” he said.

If the ordinance is passed, the proposed casino will be approved to include a sportsbook, and two off-track betting businesses licensed in the state would also be approved to open sportsbooks in the city.

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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