Chicago City Council Further Stalls Plans for Sports Betting at Arenas, Stadiums

Chicago City Council Further Stalls Plans

  • Last Week, a Chicago Hearing Ended Abruptly without a Vote on Stadium Sports Betting
  • Key Sticking Points: Lack of Minority Impact, Less Bettors for Future Chicago Casino
  • There are Six Online and Eleven Retail Sportsbooks in Illinois

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Last Week, a Chicago Hearing Ended Abruptly without a Vote on Stadium Sports Betting

Key stakeholders in the city of Chicago’s sports betting future have multiple concerns with allowing sportsbooks to set up shop in the city’s professional arenas and stadiums and last week clearly voiced those issues at a city committee hearing held on Tuesday.

The Illinois legal sports gambling market officially started in June 2019 when Governor JB Pritzker signed a sports betting bill into law, but it took until the next spring to set up and regulate the operation and the first legal sports bet in Illinois was finally placed in March 2020.

Now the city of Chicago wants in on the action so at last week’s committee hearing Alderman Walter Burnett (27th Ward) introduced a measure that would allow Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field, Soldier Field, United Center, and Wintrust Arena to run sportsbooks.

Burnett believes this measure would get the sports betting revenue ball rolling for Chicago, saying:

We would start getting money immediately with the sports facilities rather than waiting for a casino to be built,

Some city council members pushed back with concerns of their own.

Key Sticking Points: Lack of Minority Impact, Less Bettors for Future Chicago Casino

When this much potential revenue is at stake, everyone begins to get concerned that their own special interests might not be considered and as a result, they could lose out on benefitting from that newfound money and some of those council members raised their concerns at the hearing.

Alderman David Moore (17TH Ward) asked, “What is in it for the Black people?” and Alderman George Cardenas (12th Ward) said, “Five folks which are very wealthy, are going to get even more wealthy without having a direct impact on minorities.”

Alderman Anthony Beale (9TH Ward) brought up the fact that this could interfere with Chicago’s planned future casino and said, “We should hold off on this until we get the casino up and going.”

That echoes the concerns of casino magnate Neil Bluhm of Rush Street Gaming, who last month gave the City Council a similar version of this warning, saying, “Less people will come to the Chicago casino when they can bet on sports at the stadium.”

But for Chicago to do nothing means to not take advantage of a market that is doing well in other areas of the state.

There are Six Online and Eleven Retail Sportsbooks in Illinois

Since it became operational last year, the legal sports betting market in Illinois is continuing to grow, right now with six online and eleven retail sportsbooks in the state with more sports betting apps expected to launch by March 2022.

As of September 2021, the monthly sports betting handle was $596 million there, a total that has continued to rise thanks to the popular NFL regular season which started in September and ends with the Super Bowl in February 2022.

Expect Chicago city leaders to continue debating this contentious issue regarding sportsbooks in their professional sports venues, but for every month they wait that could mean millions of dollars in potential tax revenue lost so at some point a compromise will most likely be made.

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Mike Lukas

Expert on NFL

Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]