Chicago Sports Teams Want Say in Illinois Sports Betting Regulations, Collectively Petition State

Posted on: October 3, 2019, 07:56h. 

Last updated on: October 3, 2019, 10:55h.

Five professional Chicago sports teams have united in hopes of having a larger say in how sports betting will operate and be regulated in Illinois.

Chicago sports betting Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, is able to buy the rights to a sports betting facility for $10 million. (Image: iStock)

The MLB Chicago Cubs and White Sox, NFL Bears, NBA Bulls, and NHL Blackhawks are teaming up to make their voices heard, and express what they expect to receive in return for paying a hefty $10 million licensing fee to incorporate sports betting at their stadiums.

The state legalized sports betting in its vast $45 billion “Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan,” signed into law in July by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D).

The legislative package includes Senate Bill 690, which authorized a major integrated casino resort in downtown Chicago, as well as five smaller suburban casinos surrounding the Chicago metro area. It additionally allows riverboats to move ashore, and adds thousands of new gaming positions.

As for sports betting, SB 690 created up to seven sports wagering licenses earmarked for sports venues that seat more than 17,000 people. It also permits existing casinos and racetracks to incorporate sportsbooks, and gives lottery retailers the potential to place parlay sports betting kiosks inside their shops.

$10 Million Question

Donna More helped craft the riverboat casino regulations in the 1990s. Today, she’s a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP’s Chicago office, where she provides compliance, regulatory, corporate and transaction services to clients in highly regulated industries, such as gaming.

She’s representing the five aforementioned professional sports teams as they work to help decide the future of Illinois sports betting. The primary issue at hand is the $10 million stadium fee each team would need to pay to allow sports betting either in the venue, or within a five-block radius.

The only qualifying venues currently are Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, United Center, and Guaranteed Rate Field.

At $10 million per license, the sports facility and/or the designee must identify positive economic value associated with the license,” More said in a letter to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB). “The value of the license is inextricably tied to the Act’s grant of the exclusive right to authorize sports wagering within the five-block radius of each authorized facility.”

More adds that there’s no concrete definition of what constitutes a “block.” More and the five teams’ main message is that if the state expects to realize its lofty tax revenue forecasts from sports betting, the IGB must implement rules that make economic sense to warrant a $10 million fee.

Teams Want to Play

More told the state that the five major sports teams want to get in on sports betting, but only if it’s in their best interest to do so. She said it’s certainly in the best interest of the state to make sure they are intimately involved.

“Allowing the teams to participate will incentivize them to help Illinois sports wagering succeed,” More stated. “Sports wagering associated with a team/facility … will attract a unique and enthusiastic mix of participants, increasing participation and adding sales tax revenue to the state.”

Sportsbooks will be taxed at 25 percent of their gross revenue earnings. That’s far higher than Nevada, New Jersey, and Illinois neighbor Iowa.