Illinois sportsbooks could be licensed directly to the state’s seven professional sports franchises if a bill proposed last week by 5th District Representative Lamont Robinson Jr. is passed.
Specifically, the 11-page bill, HB5847, eliminates the middleman for the sports franchises in Illinois and allows them to apply for a sports betting license from the Illinois Gaming Board.
Further, this would turn Soldier Field into a place where bets could legally be placed on the Bears with revenue going straight to the Bears, same for the Cubs at Wrigley Field and the Bulls at the United Center.
“The bill will provide clarification for sports teams in Illinois interested in applying for a sports wagering license,” said Robinson in an email to PlayIllinois. “With this clarification, Illinois will be in a better position to encourage sports teams to enter into the lucrative sports betting market and increase its overall sports better handle, which is currently the third largest in the country.”
Currently, Illinois’ seven pro sports franchises can only generate revenue through negotiated sponsorships with existing sports betting companies. This is evident through the United Center’s deal to open an in-person sports betting venue with FanDuel in 2023. Also, DraftKings has a spot picked out at Wrigley also slated to open next year.
What’s in this Illinois sportsbook bill?
Robinson’s bill allows for the Illinois Gaming Board to issue seven master sports betting licenses. Do the math: Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, White Sox, Chicago Fire and Chicago Sky. Each team would pay a $5 million licensing fee. These Illinois sportsbooks would be licensed are four years, but those licenses can be renewed.
Also, Robinson pointed out that his Illinois sportsbooks nbill comes with a break for franchises with significant minority ownership.
“The bill incentivizes teams with minority ownership to apply for the license by providing a 50% reduction in licensing fees consistent with the goal in the [original] Sports Wagering Act,” said Robinson.
The 40-year-old Democrat then quoted from the bill:
“To the extent permitted by federal and state law, the Board shall actively seek to achieve racial, ethnic and geographic diversity when issuing master sports wagering licenses to organization licensees and encourage minority-owned business…. to apply for licensure. This bill is consistent with that goal.”
There are some questions about what happens when two teams share the same home venue. The best example is the Bulls and Blackhawks sharing the United Center. But Robinson’s bill explains that it would be up to the franchises to negotiate that among themselves.
Can this work in Illinois?
Arizona issues sports betting licenses to its professional sports teams. And Ohio will follow suit when it starts statewide sports wagering on Jan. 1.
Sports betting fans should welcome the news of Robinson’s bill. The more sports wagering platforms available in Illinois means better offers. Also, sports bettors sometimes receive better odds as operators compete for a share of the market.
And Illinois has become a sports betting giant in America. Notably, it has recorded $6.6 billion in sports betting handle in 2022 through September. The state has realized over $536 million in revenue in 2022. Sports betting in Illinois makes it the second largest market in the United States in terms or revenue. The Prairie State ranks third in handle.
Robinson appeared confident that his bill would spark a discussion among his colleagues. The Illinois House of Representatives reconvenes Jan. 11.
“By bringing attention to this issue now, it is my hope that the interested parties can get together and discuss what changes need to be made to the application process,” Robinson said.