The Chicago Bears made major news last week when they announced their bid to buy Arlington International Racecourse. Churchill Downs put the 326 acres of land up for sale earlier this year.
If the racing and gaming company selects the Bears’ offer, it will mark the end of an era; most Chicago Bears betting fans know that the team has played at Soldier Field since 1971.
It’s easy to see why a suburban mega-stadium would entice the Bears. It would allow them to host huge sporting events such as Super Bowls, Final Fours and College Football Playoffs.
And, if we’re really getting ambitious, how about the World Cup?
In April, Illinois was the No. 2 sports betting market in the US, registering $537.2 million in handle, finishing behind New Jersey for the month. Considering the next decade and beyond, IL should remain a sports betting fixture.
Becoming a regular host for major sporting events would only reinforce that notion.
Could Illinois host a Super Bowl or March Madness?
Last year, Lineups.com wrote about the 10 most bet on sporting events.
The World Cup, Super Bowl and March Madness are all within the top five. The World Cup is first, and building a modern stadium with a retractable roof in Arlington Heights would put Illinois in a position to host those kinds of events.
While the College Football Playoff did not crack the top 10, it’s also a popular sports betting event.
Arlington Heights, IL, would have a chance to join the same rotation as Indianapolis, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Dallas (Arlington) etc.
These events attract thousands of out-of-town spectators, which would juice the Illinois sports betting market even more. That would create more revenue for IL operators and more tax dollars for the state.
In 2021, Illinoisans saw more than $45 million in bets on the Super Bowl alone. That was even considering app outages for significant portions of the day.
If the Super Bowl were to be in Illinois, the total amount of money wagered would certainly be higher.
Would there be an Arlington Heights sportsbook?
It’s far too early to say, but a sportsbook at the Arlington Heights stadium would certainly make sense.
The Bears’ official sports betting partner is PointsBet, but it has not pursued a retail sportsbook at Soldier Field.
With that said, there would be far more foot traffic on an annually at an Arlington Heights facility than there is at Soldier Field. In theory, there would be an entire entertainment district surrounding a suburban stadium; Soldier Field is fairly isolated.
These are big ifs, but if there were a retail sportsbook at this theoretical stadium, it would likely do enormous numbers.
Mayor Lightfoot throws cold water on the idea
The Bears’ offer on the property confirms rumored Arlington Heights interest, but Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was quick argue for the team remaining in the city.
She also took a not-at-all-subtle dig at the franchise in the process. Here was her statement:
As mentioned in her statement, this is a negotiating tactic. Some fans feel that Soldier Field is among the worst stadiums in the NFL, and this could be a bargaining ploy to bring improvements.
Churchill Downs is going to be sifting through several offers. One other offer is public, and it’s from former Arlington Park President Roy Arnold. Arnold wants to keep horse racing at the property.
The imminent sale will have substantial ripple effects on the sports and/or gaming and racing industries in Illinois.