Rush Street Owner Tries To Stop Chicago Stadium Sportsbooks

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Chicago sportsbooks

The owner of Rush Street Gaming does not want sportsbooks in Chicago.

Neil Bluhm told the Chicago City Council on Monday that sportsbooks in the city would hurt revenues from a forthcoming casino project.

Rush Street has submitted two bids to build and operate a Chicago casino.

What Bluhm said

Bluhm said sportsbooks in the city would attract gamblers and cost a casino $61 million a year in lost revenue. That in turn would cost the city $12 million in taxes and the state $9 million.

“The bottom line is that less people will come to the Chicago casino when they can bet on sports at the stadiums, particularly at these really good, close locations [at Wrigley Field and the United Center],” Bluhm said, per the Chicago Sun-Times.

“That means less sports bettors will walk around the casino and play slots and table games and less people go to the restaurants at the casino if they can also be betting sports at the same time at the stadium.”

Obstacles for Chicago sportsbooks

Under Illinois sports betting law, sports teams can run retail betting and mobile betting within five blocks of their stadia for a $10 million license fee. However, this cannot happen in Chicago until the City Council passes an ordinance to approve it. 

Aldermen Walter Burnett and Brian Hopkins proposed a measure to do just that earlier this year.

DraftKings is one operator looking to take advantage of stadium sportsbooks. The operator has a deal in place with the Chicago Cubs to open a retail book at Wrigley Field.

Rush Street’s BetRivers brand has not announced a similar deal.

Does Bluhm have a point?

Bluhm’s cannibalization argument has been largely disproved in places like New Jersey. Mara Georges, a lobbyist for the United Center, also disputed Bluhm’s argument.

Georges said the United Center’s research found no evidence that sports betting would cannibalize casino revenue.

“Not only is sports wagering activity a fraction of casino activity. But in Washington DC, the first district to allow sports wagering at professional sports venues, revenues at nearby casinos actually increased,” Georges said.

Not Bluhm’s first rodeo

Bluhm and Rush Street are no strangers to slowing down Illinois sports betting. Rush Street was the primary supporter of the in-person signup provision in the state, according to DraftKings.

In the meantime, that provision is still having a dampening effect on the market. Illinois’ September’s handle was short of the state record of $633.6 million in March despite the return of the NFL.

The in-person provision will be scrapped entirely by March 2022.