Criticism accompanies the decision by the Chicago City Council to lift a ban on sports betting in the city. The move clears the way for sports betting in and around historic Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, Guaranteed Rate Field, the United Center, and Wintrust Arena. They would join 10 other retail sportsbooks currently operating in Illinois.
The City Council voted 41-9 in favor of the measure, which has been hotly debated. Opponents, which include a few allies of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, decry the paltry 2% tax rate imposed on sports betting activity within the city.
Budget Committee Chairwoman Pat Dowell, who represents the 3rd Ward in the City, said the tax revenue was “peanuts for an industry that is growing” and “not a sufficient reward for the risks we’re taking,” according to reporting by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Professional Sports Teams Get Their Way
Owners and representatives of the major professional sports teams in Chicago, the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, and the WNBA’s Sky, are satisfied with the outcome, which clears the way for them to partner with sportsbooks. The Cubs have already indicated that they would host a sportsbook adjacent to storied Wrigley Field, and the Bulls, Bears, and Sky have deals in place with betting partners.
Opposition Cites Lost Revenue to Casinos
The decision by the council disappoints billionaire Neil Bluhm, who owns and operates the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. Bluhm’s casino already has a retail sportsbook, and he fears that sportsbooks within Chicago will divert gaming action and tax revenue that his venue generates. Bluhm has another reason to oppose the decision by the City Council. His Rush Street Gaming company also seeks to build a casino in Chicago in the future.
Bluhm argues that when fans bet at sports venues like Soldier Field, they will not be spending the money they would if they were in a Chicago-based casino that offers table games, slots, and much more. As a result, the city will miss tax revenue opportunities.
Tom Ricketts, the chairman of the Cubs, responded to that criticism.
“The fact is, sports gaming is less than 2% of casino revenue,” Ricketts told the Sun-Times, “And there is no evidence that even that would be affected by this ordinance.”
Ricketts and the Cubs have a partnership in place with DraftKings to provide sports betting at Wrigley Field in the North Side of Chicago. He predicts that the team could have the first sportsbook at an MLB venue by the 2023 season.
How a Sportsbook Would Work at a Sports Venue in Chicago
According to the ordinance passed by the City Council, “No more than 15 kiosks or wagering windows may be allowed at each location unless bettors can also buy food and drink.”
Bettors will need to be at least 21 years of age, and sports wagering would be prohibited from midnight to 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday; midnight Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday; and 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The city proposes to issue two types of sports wagering licenses: A “primary” license that costs $50,000 per year; and a “secondary” license that would start at $10,000.