An ordinance that paves the way for five professional sports teams in Chicago to operate retail sportsbooks passed without debate by the city’s council Wednesday.
The move, which formally repealed the Windy City’s ban on sports betting with the addition of a 2% tax rate on all wagers within the city’s limits, was cleared by the council’s Committee on Zoning and Licensing on Monday by a 19-to-7 vote.
The sports betting tax in Chicago will be tacked onto the statewide 15% tax that was part of the 2019 Illinois gambling bill, in addition to Cook County’s 2% sports betting tax rate.
Wednesday’s announcement came despite lobbying by casino magnate Neil Bluhm, who is the chairman of Rush Street Interactive. Rush Street is a finalist to build Chicago’s first casino facility. A selection among the five finalists will be made after the first of the year.
The vote means sportsbooks at five Chicago sporting venues — Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field, the United Center, Soldier Field, and Wintrust Arena — can move forward in the new year.
What Was Said at Wednesday’s Meeting
The only alderman to discuss the ordinance Wednesday was David Moore (17th Ward), who repeated his complaints from the Zoning and Licensing committee’s hearings on the subject.
“I appreciate all the owners, especially getting on the phone calls and pushing, but I do want to see those owners even more active in our community so that when we get to things like this, so that we can be supportive,” Moore said. “My concern is that, for reasons I don’t know, when I asked and I asked for specific information — and they could tell me yes, you can tell me no — but when you don't get an answer at all. That's a problem.”
Moore’s criticism of the sports betting ordinance stems from the lack of definitive support for the city’s Black and Hispanic communities — regarding the sports betting ordinance assisting those demographics.
Cubs’ Ricketts: Sports Betting a Game-Changer
Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts voiced his support for the expansion of Illinois sports betting into the city during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting.
Ricketts said his side is keen on creating jobs and doing whatever it can to support Chicago’s budget through the increased tax rate and boon that’ll come from wagering at the five in-stadium facilities.
The Cubs and DraftKings Sportsbook Illinois have a $100 million pact to build a retail facility at the Northside ballpark, becoming the first in-stadium facility in MLB.
“We estimate 400 permanent full-time jobs when construction (of the DraftKings sportsbook) is completed,” Ricketts said. “And as we have demonstrated with our review field development, we are committed to working with minority contractors as well as having a diverse permanent workforce.”
Ricketts went on to address one of the main counterarguments against sports betting in Chicago, saying the ordinance would not cannibalize future casino revenues.
The subject has been hotly debated by the council over the past few weeks. The future casino’s taxes are slated to go toward the pension funds for Chicago’s police and fire departments.
“This ordinance will have all these positive benefits without limiting the city's options to generate more revenue from gaming as shown by the experience in other jurisdictions, the testimony of large casino operators and the conclusion of the only independent study, a study commissioned by the city that this will not have an economic impact on the viability of any potential future Chicago casino,” Ricketts added.
Ricketts previously told council the planned Wrigley Field sportsbook is slated to open in time for the 2023 MLB regular season. No opening dates have been given for the other four stadium sportsbooks.