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Chicago City Council approves sports betting at Wrigley Field and other city stadiums

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The home of the Cubs will get a sports book by 2023.

Gensler

Coming soon to a ballpark, arena or stadium near you in Chicago, a legal sports gambling establishment commonly known as a “sports book,” per John Byrne in the Tribune:

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot got the City Council Wednesday to greenlight sports betting at Wrigley Field, Soldier Field and other Chicago stadiums, despite criticism from some aldermen convinced doing so will hurt tax revenue from a planned city casino.

The council approved the measure with eight aldermen voting against it.

The support is far from universal.

The Lightfoot administration estimates a 2% tax on betting at the stadium sportsbooks will bring in just $400,000 to $500,000 per year. Critics say the city will lose much more than that in tax proceeds from the planned casino, because gamblers will head to the stadium facilities instead.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether that sort of revenue will come to the city or not. The Cubs established a partnership with DraftKings for a sportsbook in September 2020, and gave more information about those plans in July 2021. Now, it appears the Cubs are ready to go with that:

Before the final vote, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said his team is “ready to go today” on its $100 million partnership with DraftKings that will pave the way for Wrigley Field to house the first stadium sportsbook in Major League Baseball.

“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. This will create construction jobs and revenues now and permanent jobs in just over a year,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts said the ordinance would “provide additional resources to the city’s professional sports teams that will help them compete.”

“This is not a casino or even a mini-casino. It’s a sports bar-restaurant. … It only allows for fans who wish to place a wager to have a window to do so. I expect many fans will come to the sportsbook and never place a bet,” he said.

It is clear from this and other moves being made not only by MLB teams but by all sports teams that they see sportsbooks and other forms of legalized sports betting as a big future revenue source now that the regional sports network bubble has burst and revenue from RSNs is declining, or flat at best. You can see this evident in almost any sports event you watch on TV these days. We are simply bombarded from beginning to end of every broadcast with come-ons to bet on the sport we are watching, and by extension, other sports as well.

While it does indeed seem likely that this revenue will come about, I am concerned about one thing, and it is summed up by these tweets sent by Cleveland pitcher Nick Wittgren and his wife last summer:

This is the sort of Pandora’s Box that this sort of legalized gambling on sports has opened. It is, unfortunately, too late to close the lid on said box.

I hope the opening of sports books at Wrigley Field and other Chicago ballparks, stadiums and arenas don’t lead to more of this. As always, we await developments.