A move that would allow five of Chicago’s professional sports teams to let fans place bets in their home arenas and during stalled games again on Tuesday despite backing from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, amid concerns that he could undermine long-delayed efforts to build a casino in Chicago.
With Lightfoot’s backing, the revised measure that was put to a vote on Tuesday would impose a 2% tax on gross sports betting income in Chicago. This income is already subject to a 15% state tax and a 2% Cook County tax.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward), whose West Side includes the Chicago Bulls’ United Center, called the proposal “obvious” that would spur economic development.
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” said Burnett. “We’re going to start making money right away with sports facilities, rather than waiting for a casino to be built. “
But four of the mayor’s closest allies on Chicago city council opposed the plan, saying the 2% tax was not enough to offset concerns that allow the Bears, Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks and Sky to operate sports betting operations on their own grounds would cannibalize the revenues that will be generated by a Chicago casino.
Allowing Chicago pro-sports teams would add between $ 400,000 and $ 500,000 to Chicago’s coffers each year, according to an analysis presented by Connor Brashear, chief of staff to CFO Jennie Huang Bennett. Teams could achieve gross revenues of $ 20 to $ 25 million, according to a study commissioned by the city and written by Grant Govertsen of Union Gaming.
“It sounds like peanuts for a growing industry,” Ald said. Pat Dowell (3rd room).
Ald. George Cardenas (12th Ward), the deputy chief of the mayor’s floor, said the city should demand that black, Latino and women-owned businesses in Chicago be involved in sports betting construction and operations .
“I just want my colleagues to understand that in dollars and cents, five very wealthy homeowners are going to get even richer, without having a direct impact on minorities,” Cardenas said.
Govertsen’s study of the impact of sports betting operations at pro-sports stadiums in Chicago found it to be “perfectly compatible” with a casino, Brashear said.
However, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd Borough) said Chicago city council members should be given an opportunity to review this study before voting, warning that city councilors might come to regret a rushed vote without considering important information as they vote. ‘did in 2009 when city council voted to lease the city’s parking meters to a private company in a much hated deal.
Opponents of the measure have warned that the green light from sports betting lounges at Wrigley Field, United Center, Wintrust Arena, Solider Field and Guaranteed Rate Field would dampen the growth of a casino complex that city officials have relied on ever since. long to put Chicago on a solid financial footing – and avoid further property tax increases.
“There are too many unknowns,” 7th Ward Ald said. Greg Mitchell, who like Reilly, Dowell and Cardenas is an ally of the mayor. “We are moving completely too fast. “
Officials will begin the process of selecting one of five proposals from three companies to build a casino and resort in Chicago in a series of sessions scheduled for December 16. The casino is expected to generate $ 200 million in revenue for the city each year. These funds are intended for the underfunded Chicago Police and Fire Department pension funds.
Neil Bluhm, Chicago billionaire and operator of Rivers Casino Des Plaines, whose Rush Street Gaming has submitted two separate bids to build a casino complex in Chicago, remains opposed to allowing sports betting in pro-sports stadiums. In a hearing last month, Bluhm told aldermen that it would have a “significantly negative impact” on a casino at any location.
Bluhm’s opposition remains unchanged, said John Dunn, spokesperson for Bluhm, who has been widely seen as the casino’s apparent favorite.
In addition to the 2% gross revenue tax, Chicago would charge sites an upfront license fee of $ 50,000 for a sportsbook, as well as $ 25,000 per year to renew that license. Independent companies could apply for licenses to operate sports betting on the sites for $ 10,000, renewable with an annual fee of $ 5,000, according to the proposal.
A permanent casino could open as early as 2025 in Chicago, although slots could start ringing at O’Hare and Midway airports much earlier – with tentative plans for a temporary casino also in play.
Bluhm proposed to build a casino and complex in what is now the Lakeside Center at McCormick Place – formerly known as the East Convention Center Building – or south of the Loop on vacant land along the river. Chicago which is to be redeveloped by Related Midwest as 78.
Bally plans to build a $ 1.6 billion complex at the Chicago Tribune Publishing Center, Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street, or the McCormick Place Truck Marshaling Yard on the south side of the convention center, according to a company statement.
Hard Rock International proposed to build the casino and complex as part of the One Central project, which would build a mixed-use development on the Metra tracks south of Soldier Field.
However, the Union Gaming study found that sports betting parlors in other cities did not hurt casino revenues, as 96% of all sports betting is placed online, most of it through apps. mobiles, Govertsen said.
Confusion also erupted during Tuesday’s hearing over remarks made by Lightfoot at an independent press conference on Monday, where she told reporters that the 2% tax would generate income that would pay for “any work. ‘infrastructure’ and ‘regulatory oversight’.
“We have to make sure there are enough resources for us to do this,” Lightfoot said.
Asked by members of the city council, officials from the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Department of Town Planning and Development said they were unsure what those costs would be.
Ald. Emma Mitts (34th Ward), chair of the licensing committee, abruptly suspended the committee hearing, indicating that city councilors could resume the matter before the plenary meeting of city council set for December 15.
Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]