At Arlington Racecourse site

Illinois: Arlington Heights recommends zoning amendment in favor of Chicago Bears' proposed in-stadium sportsbook

Reading time 1:49 min

The Arlington Heights Plan Commission agreed Wednesday to recommend that the Village Board approve amending the zoning for the Arlington International Racecourse site to allow for a sports betting facility there, exclusively under the condition of a professional sports stadium at the location. 

The move comes after the NFL's Chicago Bears team signed in 2021 a $197 million purchase agreement for the racecourse. Last month, a redevelopment plan including a sports wagering facility was presented, as part of a $5 billion, multi-year project. The team proposed to build both an NFL stadium and an adjoining mixed-use commercial and residential district.

The Village Board approved in July 2021 an ordinance that established the Arlington International Race Course Overlay Zoning District, laying out basic requirements for any future development on the 326-acre site. It specified that anything that came to occupy the property had to be approved as part of a planned unit development.

During the Plan Commission meeting on Wednesday, commissioners agreed to recommend the zoning amendment approval to allow a sports wagering facility at the site as part of a special use, reports Chicago Tribune.

Arlington International Racecourse

Deputy Director of Planning and Community Development Bill Enright reminded the commissioners that the ordinance would allow sports betting facilities, but not approve a particularly proposed one. “It merely allows for a sports wagering facility to be considered as a Special Use,” he wrote in a memo to the commission.

The ordinance also stipulates that a sports betting facility must be part of an approved professional sports stadium, the cited source adds. The Bears also proposed a mixed-use commercial and residential district with parks, dining and entertainment amenities, and plans to seek public funding to help pay for parts of the proposed projects.  

"We haven't quantified what that value is, but we do know that with all the new developments in any stadium or arena where sports betting is legalized, there is a sportsbook involved with it," said Cliff Stein, the Bears' general counsel, during a separate meeting with village trustees Monday night, as reported by the Daily Herald

Stein noted that plans for sportsbooks have been unveiled at Wrigley Field and the United Center. Under current NFL rules, the Bears could not own the sports wagering facility itself but could partner with a sports betting operator that would legally hold the state sports wagering license.

"We can own the land and we can own the building and we can have a partnership," Stein said. The team has had a sponsorship agreement with Rivers Casino in Des Plaines and its BetRivers sportsbook since June 2021, a deal that was inked only days after the club submitted a bid for the Arlington Park land.

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