More suitors are emerging in the Chicago Bears‘ new stadium sweepstakes, and nearby Illinois sportsbooks and casinos could stand to benefit from any one of them.
There are now five municipalities competing for the proposed multibillion-dollar dome that would house the Bears for the foreseeable future.
The newest contender, Aurora, officially threw its hat in the ring last week. To get there, Mayor Richard Irvin sent a “letter of interest” inviting team president Kevin Warren (above) to consider the candidacy of Illinois’ second-largest city. According to an Aurora spokesperson, Bears representatives responded well to the initial proposal.
With Aurora now firmly in the fray, here is an updated list of the locations in play for Bears brass:
- Arlington Heights
Bears could be a blessing for one lucky sportsbook
Beyond the intrigue that comes with a historic franchise possibly moving out of town, there’s an interesting side story also brewing. Each of the five potential host cities either already have an Illinois casino that is home to a retail Illinois sportsbook, are situated very close to one, or are opening one in the near future.
In other words, one of these sportsbooks seems likely to benefit from the influx of Bears fans on gameday.
For context, Soldier Field is the smallest stadium, by venue capacity (61,500), in the National Football League. However, the team still managed a 97.3% ticket sale rate for home games in 2022-23, pulling in an average of 59,823 spectators.
Following a successful offseason, those numbers are expected to rise even higher.
So, with the Bears being a considerable draw and proven Illinois sports betting favourite, which sportsbooks might benefit from their presence? Let’s take a look.
Hollywood Casino Aurora close to Naperville
The city of Aurora currently boasts the only permanent casino-sportsbook combination between the five competitors. That certainly bodes well for its Hollywood Casino, which houses the Barstool Sports-operated Penalty Box Sportsbook and Bar.
But that’s not the end of it for Aurora. In fact, it has another significant advantage over the competition, namely Naperville. In the hypothetical scenario that Naperville secures the stadium rights, there would be no retail sportsbook for locals and fans. Instead, the closest sportsbook and casino is located about 20 minutes west in Aurora.
Although bringing the Bears to Aurora is the city’s ultimate goal, the Naperville fallback option at the very least presents a ‘win-consolation prize’ outcome for Aurora’s local sports betting and casino scene.
Arlington is close to Illinois’ largest casino in Des Plaines
Despite not posting a bid for the Bears, the city of Des Plaines plays host to the largest casino in Illinois. Rivers Casino also doubles as the youngest gaming center in the state.
The casino features a BetRivers Sportsbook and is about 15 minutes southeast of the Arlington Heights, which doesn’t have a casino of its own. Notably, BetRivers is the exclusive sports betting and casino partner of the Chicago Bears. That partnership might help its sportsbook attract new bettors, especially those in Arlington Heights.
Bally’s Chicago will soon be the largest casino in the state
While Bally’s is in the midst of building a $1.8 billion mega-casino in Chicago, it’s also working on something more imminent. About two weeks ago, the sports media and betting company received the go ahead to open a temporary casino inside the old Medinah Temple in River North this summer.
Therefore, if the Bears stay in Chicago, there will be some transition time before any sportsbook reaps the benefits. That said, given the scale of what’s coming and that it’ll be Chicago’s first casino, the results could be extraordinary.
The permanent location is set to open at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street by 2026.
Waukegan casino set to open Circa sportsbook
The final suitor, Waukegan, is home to a temporary casino that will soon feature the newest retail sportsbook in Illinois. This upcoming August, the Full House Resorts property will unveil the eighth legal Illinois sportsbook, Circa. Further, it is also working on a permanent facility, which is expected to open in 2025.
As Waukegan gears up for a run at the Bears, the city of almost 90,000 will soon join Aurora as the only municipality outside of Chicago to enjoy its own sportsbook and casino.
Brief recap of the Bears’ new stadium saga
Up until the beginning of last month, a Bears-to-Arlington-Heights-move looked like a sure thing. In early February, the team closed on the 326-acre property that once held Arlington International Racecourse for $197.2 million.
However, talks hit a snag when team officials raised concerns over the expense of its property tax assessment. Consequently, the Arlington site was no longer the franchise’s “singular focus” and so began the bidding war that rages on today.
First it was Naperville in May, then Waukegan in June, and now Aurora in July.
In spite of all the turmoil, Arlington is still viewed as the favorite to land the Monsters of the Midway.
Bears chairman George McCaskey, unlike his late brother Michael, has made no threats to move the team out of Illinois. However, he insisted that “property tax certainty” is a must for any new development happen.