Sports Betting At Chicago Stadiums Hits Big Snag Amid Casino Competition Concerns

Written By Joe Boozell on December 10, 2021 - Last Updated on December 20, 2021

A group of Chicago aldermen chose not to advance a plan that would allow retail sports betting at the city’s stadiums earlier this week, leaving the future of Chicago stadium betting in serious question.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently proposed a 2% tax on all stadium betting profits in an effort to get the aldermen on board. It was not enough, and the aldermen want to see a city-commissioned report that shows stadium sports betting and a Chicago casino can successfully co-exist.

Rush Street Gaming co-founder Neil Bluhm recently voiced concerns that stadium retail sportsbooks would eat into Chicago casino revenue. Rush Street is responsible for two of the city’s five casino bids.

He said:

“The person who gambles on sports is very likley a gambler who also bets on tables and slot machines.  It’s 20% of our business… this isn’t some hypothetical discussion.”

Lightfoot then fired back, saying:

“There’s been some dire warnings that have been issued by some who … already use sportsbook at their own casinos and who are trying to kill sportsbook here in Chicago. They have not put forth any convincing evidence that … somehow it’s gonna cannibalize a casino here in Chicago. … We’ve seen zero indication that that’s the case.”

As of right now, not enough key city officials are on Lightfoot’s side.

The city estimates that Chicago stadium sportsbooks would generate between $400,000 to $500,000 in yearly tax revenue. Council Budget Committee Chair Ald. Pat Dowell said that is “paltry” compared with what casinos would expect to lose if the policy is enacted.

Rivers Casino lobbyist John Dunne says the city stands to lose $10 to $12 million in yearly tax revenue if stadium sportsbooks become a reality.

Suffice it to say, a significant battle lies ahead.

Background of Chicago stadium sports betting

Illinois lawmakers included stadium sports betting in the 2019 Sports Wagering Act. While not the first state to allow retail wagering at sporting venues, it is a fairly new concept.

The Chicago Cubs and DraftKings were quick to pounce on the idea. The two struck an exclusive sports betting agreement, and there are plans for a DraftKings Sportsbook at Wrigley Field.

We also know that the United Center wants retail sports betting, though it does not have an exclusive agreement in place.

And given that Jerry Reinsdorf owns the Bulls and White Sox, Guaranteed Rate Field would likely want to get in on the action, too.

However, none of this will happen if the city concludes that it will lose millions in yearly tax revenue if it allows stadium sports betting.

Who will win the Chicago casino license?

The city of Chicago has five bids from which to choose. Rush Street and Bally’s are responsible for two apiece, while Hard Rock also submitted a proposal.

Notably, Rush Street has been the most outspoken against Chicago stadium sportsbooks. Bally’s and Hard Rock have been quiet on the issue.

The companies are set to present their casino plans to the public on Dec. 16. We’ve broken down all of the proposals here.

Lightfoot has said she hopes to choose a winning bid in the first quarter of 2022.

Photo by AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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