Sports betting is approved for Chicago’s major stadiums and ballparks

Soldier Field
The measure gives five arenas – Guaranteed Rate Field, Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, Wintrust Arena and United Center – the ability to open betting lounges on site or within a five-block radius. Kamil Krzaczynski / Associated Press
Soldier Field
The measure gives five arenas – Guaranteed Rate Field, Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, Wintrust Arena and United Center – the ability to open betting lounges on site or within a five-block radius. Kamil Krzaczynski / Associated Press

Sports betting is approved for Chicago’s major stadiums and ballparks

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Chicago’s professional stadiums and ballparks could soon be home to sports betting, now that the city council has given the green light on a long-delayed proposal.

Aldermen passed a measure allowing for betting at the major parks without debate Wednesday, at the City Council’s last meeting of the year that saw several other big ticket items approved. The measure gives five arenas – Guaranteed Rate Field, Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, Wintrust Arena and United Center – the ability to open betting lounges on site or within a five-block radius.

Wednesday’s council meeting was interrupted when Ald. Carrie Austin, 72, appeared to faint. Paramedics responded, and Austin was reported to be conscious. She was hesitant to go to the hospital, according to one alderman, saying she could walk, as well. Austin is currently the council’s second longest-serving alderman and announced earlier this month she would be retiring after this term. She’s previously dealt with a serious health condition.

Before today, the sports betting ordinance has long been delayed, as opponents have raised concerns that it would cannibalize revenue from a forthcoming Chicago casino. Casino magnate Neil Bluhm, who owns a casino with sports betting in suburban Des Plaines and has submitted two proposals for a Chicago casino, vehemently opposes the sports betting measure. Other aldermen have said the city is not getting enough out of the sports betting deal.

Chicago officials expect to rake in just $400,000 to $500,000 in tax revenue a year, plus revenue from licenses that’ll cost $50,000 intitally and $25,000 annually.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who initially opposed allowing sports betting as she focused on launching the process to bring a casino to the city, now supports the plan. Nine aldermen voted against the sports betting ordinance Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday: the council took an extraordinary step in moving forward on a housing project in a ward where the local alderman opposes the project and has stalled it for years.

The proposal from Glenstar Properties, would create 297 apartments near O’Hare Airport, 59 of which would be affordable. It would be created in a mostly-white area on the Northwest Side that lags in affordable housing stock, according to city officials.

Ald. Anthony Napolitano, 41st Ward, opposes the project, citing density concerns. Aldermen have a longstanding, unwritten rule of deferring to the local ward’s aldermen on projects.

The commissioner of the Department of Housing, Marisa Novara, urged aldermen earlier this week to approve the development, despite Napolitano’s opposition, saying the lack of affordable housing stock is a citywide issue that all neighborhoods must address.

Novara told aldermen at a committee meeting that less than 5% of rental housing in Napolitano’s ward is regulated affordable housing. That, she said, is compared to more than 30% in numerous neighborhoods on the South Side, and more than 80% in at least one.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who campaigned on curtailing aldermanic privilege which has allowed aldermen to shut down affordable housing projects in their wards without much debate, urged aldermen to approve the project.

She declined to say afterward whether this was an effort to diminish the unwritten practice.

“If the precedent that it sets is that there has to be affordable housing in every area of the city, then I’m okay with that,” Lightfoot said. “And again I don’t want to be disrespectful to the alderman … but I went out there personally … and I came away from that visit with confidence that this is the right project and that it needs to move forward.”

Chicago aldermen also approved a slew of police misconduct settlements. Most notably, they unanimously approved a settlement agreement to give $2.9 million to Anjanette Young, the victim of a wrongful police raid that has garnered national attention.

That puts somewhat of a cap on a case that’s led to a political firestorm for Lightfoot, whose administration originally fought to keep video of the incident from being released.

Young, though, has continued to call for further reform to policies around warrant executions. An office that investigates police misconduct in a recent report blamed the wrongful raid on poor policy, training and supervision. Investigators concluded the officer who got the warrant to search Young’s home repeatedly ignored evidence indicating he had the wrong address.

Mariah Woelfel covers Chicago city government at WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter @MariahWoelfel.