Lightfoot rejects flip-flops on sports betting

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday denied making flip-flops on sports bets, saying there is no evidence that allowing sportsbooks at and around five stadiums would “cannibalize” revenue from a casino in Chicago.

Lightfoot said she would never do anything that would meaningfully compromise casino revenues dedicated to supporting police and firing pension funds that are now dangerously close to insolvency – and there is no evidence that casino revenue losses to sports betting would be serious.

It does not matter that the sky is falling recently, as casino magnate Neil Bluhm has portrayed.

“There have been some serious warnings that have been issued by some who are already using sportsbooks in their own casinos and who are trying to kill sportsbooks here in Chicago. They have not presented any convincing evidence that “way it will cannibalize a casino here in Chicago …. We have seen zero evidence that this is the case,” said Lightfoot.

“We’ve heard … a lot of talk from people who would profit from not allowing the sports teams to have their own sportsbook. But talk is talk. Facts and data – that’s what I’m about.

Lightfoot said her “first concern” is to make sure a Chicago casino “generates the kind of revenue we need to support” police and fire pension funds.

“I would not allow anything to move forward that felt like it would undermine the incredibly important opportunity,” she said.

Lightfoot noted that sports betting has been legal in Illinois since the General Assembly approved it in 2019. She expects an amended ordinance lifting the Chicago ban to be approved by the city council at its December meeting.

According to the plan, sports betting will be approved at Wrigley, Guaranteed Rate Field, Soldier Field, United Center and Wintrust Arena or in a “permanent building or structure located within a five-block radius” of these stadiums.

An aerial from a drone shows Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.

A repeal of Chicago’s ban on sportsbooks would allow a betting facility on or within five blocks of Wrigley Field and several other sports facilities in the city.

“Of course there will be some influence [on a Chicago casino]. There has never been any hint that it will not affect it. The reality is that you can not watch a sporting event right now without seeing an ad for FanDuel… or DraftKings. … Sportsbook is in our DNA and blood system now in the city of Chicago and really in the whole country where it is legal, ”said Lightfoot.

“So the question is, how do we manage this in a way that benefits Chicago’s taxpayers? That’s really the only question.”

Bluhm’s interest in blocking sports betting in Chicago is twofold. His Rush Street Gaming company is part of two separate groups vying to build a Chicago casino. And his Des Plaines-based Rivers Casino already has a sportsbook that stands to lose business if sports betting is legalized in Chicago.

During a court hearing earlier this month, Bluhm argued that lifting the city’s ban on sports betting would have a “significant negative impact” on both a Chicago casino and the city’s revenue from it – worth $ 88 million, about 10% of ” expected gaming revenue “- regardless of which of five potential sites and development teams are selected.

“The person who plays sports is very likely a gambler who also bets on tables and slot machines. That’s 20% of our business. … This is not a hypothetical discussion, ”Bluhm said.

“The bottom line is that fewer people will come to the Chicago casino when they can bet on sports in the stadiums, especially in these really good, close places. [at Wrigley Field and the United Center]. This means that fewer sports bettors will walk around the casino and play slots and table games, and fewer people will go to restaurants at the casino if they can also bet on sports at the stadium at the same time. “

Specifically, Bluhm claimed that Chicago’s casino revenue from slots and tables would fall by $ 61 million a year with sports betting at the stadium. The city would lose 20% of that – about $ 12 million. The state would lose $ 9 million.

“For almost 20 years, the city has been trying to get a casino. Now that you can finally get one, why should you create more competitors when the city does not get any income from sports betting? ” said Bluhm.

“Which is more important – that the city has a good casino, or that the sports teams have a retail book for sports betting? … It is not good for the city. It will cost them a lot of money.”

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