Illinois targets rapid progress on betting legislation

17 October 2018

Illinois gambling advocates are hopeful that proposals for legal sports betting and online gambling could be put to lawmakers before the end of this year.

A hearing on the “new wave of gaming” - sports betting, fantasy sports and internet gaming – will take place later today (Wednesday) at the state Capitol in Springfield. Leading the session will be pro-gambling Rep Bob Rita, who said he is hopeful the hearing can “build a consensus proposal that could be considered in Springfield after the November election.”

Members from two subcommittees - Gaming and on Sales and Other Taxes - will hear from representatives from fantasy sports, online gaming, casinos and technology companies, as well as professional sports leagues and prominent opponents of the sector.

Rita has proposed several bills on gaming expansion since becoming the House Democrats’ point person on the sector in 2013. His most recent bill stalled in May, but a spokesperson told iGamingBusiness.com that he has been “encouraged” by developments in New Jersey since the repeal of PASPA.

In a statement ahead of the hearing, Rep Rita said: “As I have said from the beginning in working on this issue, gaming expansion presents many tremendous opportunities to create revenue, jobs and economic growth in Illinois.

“The gaming landscape has changed significantly since I took on this issue five years ago, and I want to use these hearings to understand how those changes present new opportunities for us to put the right package together as we look to meet budget needs and provide a spark for our economy.”

Today’s hearing comes two months after the two subcommittees heard testimony on gaming from stakeholders including municipalities and anti-gambling groups.

Illinois would certainly be of great interest for gaming operators. The state is the sixth largest by population with almost 13 million residents and includes major cities such as Chicago, home to two MLB franchises, the NFL’s Chicago Bears and NBA’s Chicago Bulls.

Chris Grove, managing director at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, believes Illinois will be “among the next wave of states to move on regulated sports betting”.

He told iGamingBusiness.com: “As with all states, Illinois will have to run the gauntlet of stakeholders with competing agendas and deep wells of political power in order to get a bill done, but I do believe the interest is there.”

In a letter ahead of his appearance before the hearing, Jim Ryan, CEO of Pala Interactive and a member of the nonprofit iDEA Growth, called on lawmakers to not overlook the economic benefits of gambling expansion.

Ryan wrote mobile wagering is “the future of the industry” and sports wagering is already taking place on “unregulated platforms.”

“Illinois needs to make it legal and regulated. Voting for anything less is a lost opportunity for the state’s economy,” Ryan said.

Image: Arturo Pardavila III