Chicago City Council Passes New Ordinance To Allow For Stadium Sportsbooks

Written By Derek Helling on December 15, 2021

Now more than ever, it looks like Chicagoans could have more reason to get off the Red Line at Addison than simply attending Cubs games. A new ordinance that would allow for Chicago stadium sportsbooks is now part of the city’s code, repealing a provision that blocked such establishments in the city.

Despite the objections of some members of the Chicago City Council, the full board voted to approve the new language Wednesday morning. Thus, the development of Illinois retail sportsbooks at five sporting venues around Chicago could begin soon.

The latest in regards to Chicago stadium sportsbooks

Wednesday’s vote was the result of months of lobbying from groups with interests on both sides of the issue. After a committee meeting Monday, though, Wednesday’s vote looked largely procedural.

The Council’s Committee on Zoning and License approved Mayor Lori Lightfoot‘s new ordinance by a 19-7 vote in its meeting Monday. Wednesday’s vote went to immediate approval with zero debate.

The city’s code now includes new language that aims to “actively seek to achieve racial, ethnic, and geographic diversity when issuing primary sports licenses.” The verbiage also states the city should “encourage” minority- and women-owned businesses to apply for licenses.

Several of the council members who voted against the ordinance on Monday said it still doesn’t go far enough to ensure minorities and women will get an opportunity to take part. Others expressed concerns about stadium sportsbooks taking revenue away from the future Chicago casino.

Stakeholders like Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts have been adamant that the current ban on retail sportsbooks was the only thing holding them back from getting started on the sportsbooks. With that out of the way, fans will soon see how proactive parties like Ricketts are.

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Development could begin quickly around Chicago

Ricketts was clear that movement toward a DraftKings Sportsbook in Wrigleyville would commence shortly after the city changes its ordinance.

“With your approval of this ordinance, construction would begin immediately with the aim of opening a restaurant with a sportsbook in time for the 2023 season,” Ricketts stated. “This will create construction jobs and revenues now and permanent jobs in just over a year.”

Besides a DraftKings book near Wrigley, four other venues could soon make moves toward the same end. Those are:

  • Guaranteed Rate Field
  • Soldier Field
  • United Center
  • Wintrust Arena

The Chicago Bears have a sports betting partnership with BetRivers Sportsbook. The Bulls have a similar deal with Betway. The Blackhawks, Fire, Sky, and White Sox do not have current sponsorships along those lines.

Currently, Wintrust Arena is not eligible to host a sportsbook under IL law. The law states that qualifying venues must have a seating capacity of at least 17,000. Wintrust falls far below that. However, a bill is in the state legislature that would make Wintrust eligible.

With the city’s prohibition ended, activity on this front is imminent. Announcements about those partnerships and construction in Wrigleyville could come faster than the Red Line.

Photo by 4kclips / Shutterstock
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. 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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