A ban on sports betting is being lifted in the city of Chicago after a decision by the City Council. The newly relaxed rules will allow professional sports teams to open sportsbooks in or near their stadiums.
Getting to this point took some political wrangling: Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week attempted to lift the ban but her plan stalled in a City Council committee before aldermen backed the ordinance.
It would be approved by a 19-7 vote in the Zoning and License committees.
Sportsbooks can now go up at, or within five blocks of, Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, the United Center, Wintrust Arena, and the Guaranteed Rate Field.
Despite the newfound freedom for betting operators, in each facility there will be a limit of 15 windows. The transactions will be taxed, as well: 2% on gross revenue on sports betting, in addition to the 15% state tax and 2% Cook County tax.
The sportsbooks have an annual revenue estimate of $20-25m, meaning $400,000-500,000 in tax revenue for Chicago.
The controversy in allowing sports betting revolves around the possibility of the betting action cutting into the profits of the casino that the city wants to see go up in the coming years. Neil Bluhm, the owner of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines and a bidder for the prospective casino, has noted that the new sports betting allowances could potentially cost the city $12m in tax revenue.
The 2% tax pales in comparison to what the city could get if the casino has less competition.
Bluhm – admittedly a very interested and compromised party – told Chicago CBS Local: “Why take a chance like this? There’s a big risk with no reward.”