The most recent update to the Illinois Gaming Board‘s website Friday included Betfair, the parent company of FanDuel, applying for a sports facility sports wagering license for the United Center in Chicago.
Per the IGB’s website, the application was submitted Aug. 10. It is the first application submitted for a sports facility sports wagering license in Illinois and makes the United Center the license designee. There is no timeline for vetting and approval by the IGB, which means the two-story lounge that has been under construction since spring at the arena — home of the NBA’s Bulls and NHL’s Blackhawks — will likely open during the upcoming season without betting kiosks or windows and operate only during game events.
Should the application be approved, the United Center would be the third arena in the U.S. to feature sports wagering, along with Capital One Arena (Caesars Sportsbook) in Washington, D.C., and the Footprint Center in Arizona. The latter, home to the Phoenix Suns and Mercury, is also run by FanDuel. The United Center book would also be the seventh sports venue overall, joining Chase Field (Caesars) and State Farm Stadium (BetMGM) in Phoenix, and Nationals Park (BetMGM) and Audi Field (FanDuel) in the nation’s capital.
Though the United Center was eligible at the state level to be a license designee with the 2019 gaming expansion bill that legalized sports betting in Illinois, being allowed to offer retail wagering in the city required the Chicago City Council to pass an ordinance in December that lifted a home-rule ban on such activities. That ordinance included a 2% tax on revenue from wagers placed at those locations, in addition to the 15% collected by the state and 2% for Cook County on all wagers placed within the county limits.
DraftKings’ Wrigley application imminent
FanDuel, which originally reached an agreement with the United Center to build the lounge in January, is not the only sportsbook looking to raise a pennant in a Chicago sports venue. (You can read our full FanDuel Sportsbook review here.)
Construction is at an advanced stage at Wrigley Field, where DraftKings will have a two-story sportsbook adjacent to the “friendly confines” that is expected to begin accepting wagers on Opening Day next season. DraftKings has yet to submit a sports facility sports license application to the IGB, per the agency’s website.
DraftKings and the Cubs reached an agreement to build that sportsbook in September 2020, and construction began shortly after the city ordinance was passed. There are three other venues in the city eligible for sports facility sports wagering licenses: Soldier Field, Guaranteed Rate Field, and Wintrust Arena. Wintrust, which is home to the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, became eligible last year with the passage of HB 3136 that amended the capacity requirements in state law.
The lack of progress to include a sportsbook at Soldier Field — run by the city’s Parks District — has been a point of contention for the Bears, who have BetRivers as their official sports wagering partner. The storied NFL franchise has been contemplating a move to the suburbs of Arlington Heights after buying the parcel of land where Arlington Racecourse is located from Churchill Downs for $196.2 million in September 2021.