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Chicago sports teams call for greater sports betting exclusivity


Chicago’s five teams in the “Big Four” North American professional sports leagues called for greater enforcement of a proposed five-block exclusivity zone around stadia where sports wagers are accepted in a letter sent to the Illinois Gaming Board last week.

The NFL’s Chicago Bears, MLB’s Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox and the United Center Joint Venture (representing both the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks) said rival operators must be barred from taking sports wagers near sports venues featuring sportsbooks in order to justify Illinois’ $10m license fee.

In June, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the gaming expansion bill into law, which would allow for sports betting to be conducted at stadia with a capacity of 17,000 or greater. Sports venues may also offer mobile sports betting within five blocks of the venue, and no other sportsbook is permitted within this zone.

“Sports wagering associated with a team/facility, when activated as proposed in this letter, will attract a unique and enthusiastic mix of participants increasing participation and adding sales tax revenue to the state,” the letter said.

However, the bill would also allow lottery retailers to offer parlay bets on sports. In their letter, the teams said that they feared this could result in saturation of the market in the areas within five blocks of their venues.

“The Lottery intends to expand its operations seeking to entice sports fans to place bets at thousands of lottery terminals statewide,” the letter says. “Left unchecked, this could include terminals within five blocks of a sports facility(ies) and result in another major source of wagering saturation in the state.”

The teams also called for a ban on other sportsbook operators advertising, marketing or operating, including operating mobile betting, without the authorization of the relevant sports teams. The companies said they believed that permitting marketing from other operators could create “faux wagering locations,” where customers could place mobile bets at a location branded in the style of a rival sportsbook.

The teams said that full exclusivity for the five-block radius was imperative, due to the cost of the license. 

“At $10m per license, the sports facility must identify positive economic value associated with the license,” the letter said. “The value of the license is inexorably tied to the Act’s grant of the exclusive right to authorize sports wagering within the five-block radius of each authorized facility.” 

In addition, the letter called for players who have already registered for a legal sports betting account to not need to register a second time at sports venues and to permit retail sportsbook terminals at multiple different points within the same stadium’s grounds.