Wrigley Field Headlining Illinois Sports Betting & Gambling Expansions

Posted on June 18, 2019

A bill to expand gambling in the Land of Lincoln awaits Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature. In anticipation of that, interested parties like the Chicago Cubs are making moves.

Chicago soon to see more gambling

The bill is SB 690, and it’s a win for the gambling industry in the city of Chicago.

Gov. Pritzker received the bill on June 5 and indicated he will sign it.

The bill allows venues that host sporting events that have a seating capacity of at least 17,000 to offer sports betting to patrons. The Chicago Cubs are reportedly interested in doing so at Wrigley Field.

The Chicago area will also host a new “mega-casino.” The bill approves 4,000 gaming positions at that facility. A third of the tax revenue will go to the city.

Gambling expansion elsewhere in Illinois

Additionally, the bill green lights the construction of five other casinos in other parts of the state like Rockford and Waukegan. Airports and racetracks can also now offer slot machine gambling.

Existing casinos can expand their gaming positions from 1,200 to 2,000 if desired.

There are some interested parties left out of the expansion, however.

College sports excluded

Ryan Field at Northwestern University has enough seats to be able to offer sports betting. It won’t be able to get a license, however.

The bill bans betting on any Illinois school sports. That includes Bradley, Northwestern and the University of Illinois.

The biggest question many Illinois residents may have is whether they can place bets on their mobile devices. That depends on what sportsbooks bettors want to use.

DraftKings and FanDuel put in ‘penalty box’

Sportsbooks that operate in land-based facilities can immediately roll out mobile betting platforms once the bill becomes law. That means casinos and companies they partner with can offer mobile sports betting soon.

Before placing those bets on their devices, however, bettors will have to register with the sportsbook in person. Sportsbook operators that exist only on the internet will have to wait.

Online-only sportsbooks, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, can’t operate in the state for 18 months after the bill’s passage.

Drama over the online-only waiting period

Critics say the provision was included to give casino owners like Neil Bluhm an advantage. Others like state Sen. Napoleon Harris said it’s a “bad actor” punishment for DraftKings and FanDuel.

DraftKings and FanDuel fought that provision in the bill with an ad campaign. After the bill’s passage, DraftKings CEO Jason Robbins criticized the bill.

The state’s attorney general issued an opinion about DraftKings’ and FanDuel’s fantasy sports games in 2015. The opinion declared such games illegal gambling.

Despite that, DraftKings and FanDuel continued to accept entries from Illinois residents. As a result, lawmakers sought this provision to penalize both companies.

Gambling taxes and fees

The motivation to make DraftKings and FanDuel wait is complicated. The drive for the state to expand gambling is simple, however.

An estimated $410 million in new gambling taxes is what the state hopes to receive on an annual basis. That may be too optimistic long-term, but an initial jump in revenue is more certain.

Facilities that want to open sportsbooks will have to pay $10 million for a license. If those operators also want to offer mobile bets, that will cost another $20 million.

After the licenses are awarded, the state will have a better idea of how much new revenue expanded gambling will actually produce. SB 690 should alter the landscape of gambling in Illinois dramatically.

What used to be unthinkable, placing a bet between innings at Wrigley Field, may become a reality when the Chicago Cubs open the 2020 season.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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