Chicago Sports Betting Ban Remains, But City Officials Motion to Lift Restriction

Posted on: July 22, 2021, 12:12h. 

Last updated on: July 22, 2021, 12:51h.

Chicago sports betting within the city limits remains a prohibited activity. But some officials are hoping to soon end that regulation.

Chicago sports betting Wrigley
A physical sportsbook inside Wrigley Field is unlikely this year. But fans in the coming seasons could be able to place an in-person wager at the Chicago Cubs famed stadium. Chicago City Council members are motioning to lift a moratorium on sports wagering in the city. (Image: Getty)

Illinois legalized sports betting in 2019. It came by way of a major gaming expansion package signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) that authorized five regional casinos in Chicago’s southern suburbs, as well as a larger integrated resort in the Windy City’s downtown.

Legal sports betting, however, cannot occur in Chicago until the City Council passes an ordinance to allow such gambling. Aldermen Walter Burnett (27th Ward) and Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) this week proposed a measure to end the sports betting ban.

The ordinance, if approved, would allow the city’s professional sports stadiums to pursue sports betting licenses, as permitted under the state sports gambling law. The resolution covers Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field, Soldier Field, United Center, and Wintrust Arena.

Wrigley and the United Center — they’ve both been talking about setting up a spot for it. This ordinance needs to be passed in order for that to happen,” explained Burnett.

“We’ll see where the Council wants to go with it. In my community, it’ll bring more people to the United Center. They may spend more money. It helps with the sales tax and also the amusement tax that these guys pay. So, there is upside,” Burnett added.

Retail Stadium Sportsbooks

Under Illinois’ 2019 sports betting law, Chicago’s pro sports stadiums, pending approval from local governments, can apply for sportsbook permits. Stadiums with capacities of at least 17,000 people can incorporate sportsbooks into their venues, or build standalone sports betting facilities within a five-block radius.

Historic Wrigley Field, home of the MLB Cubs, wants in. Last September, the Cubs and sports betting leader DraftKings announced a multi-year partnership. The MLB franchise and DraftKings want to build a retail sportsbook at Wrigley.

“An increasing number of sports fans want to integrate sports betting into their game experience, and we’re excited to be one of the first to engage in developing a retail sportsbook at a professional sports venue,” said Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney.

Should the Chicago City Council lift its embargo on sports betting, the Cubs and DraftKings would need approval from the Illinois Gaming Board, as well as Major League Baseball. If all goes as the Cubs hope, the team and DraftKings would then need to pay a one-time $10 million sports betting licensing fee to the state.

Motion Tabled

After Burnett and Hopkins introduced the sports betting ordinance during this week’s City Council meeting, Alderman Anthony Beale (9th Ward) moved the measure to the government agency’s Rules Committee for further consideration.

The City Council’s next scheduled meeting is for September 14. A recommendation from the Rules Committee on the sports betting initiative is expected at that time.

Burnett says he recognizes not everyone is in favor of sports betting. But he says walk down the halls of City Hall during the Super Bowl or other major sporting events, and “everybody’s doing squares, pools, and all kinds of other things related to sports betting.”