Illinois Lawmakers Eye Online Gambling and Sports Betting

A hearing to discuss online gambling and sports betting was held at the Illinois state capital last week, with both advocates and opponents having their say.

This was the second of two hearings scheduled in the Prairie State since the US Supreme Court overturned the ban on sports betting last May. The first was held in downtown Chicago in August where a bipartisan bill involving several forms of gambling expansion, including online poker, was discussed.

Numerous reports indicate that Illinois legislators are getting quite serious about putting a bill together that would regulate sports betting. Whether or not online poker and gambling will also be included in the mix remains to be seen.

Not This Year

Rep. Lou Lang told his colleagues at the hearing that he is in the process of drafting a sports betting bill for Illinois. He doesn’t envision proposing the measure in 2018, but plans instead to wait until after the November elections and until the new General Assembly convenes in January.

Gambling opponents made their voices heard at the hearing, laying out the societal ills such as addiction that tend to follow when gambling proliferates. Lang had a ready answer, however, insisting that gamblers will find a way to gamble whether it’s legal or not.

Lang told the State Journal-Register:

We’re not going to be able to stop them from doing it, so we should regulate it and tax it,

How much to tax it and where to allow it are the main concerns that need to be addressed. And whether or not to include even greater expansion of gambling offerings such as new casinos, slot machines at race tracks, and online poker are still possibilities.

All those issues were on the table even before PASPA was overturned five months ago and there are some legislators who don’t want to see them left out. Lots of online poker players also favor regulation, hoping to eventually see Illinois join the multi-state player pools currently in effect in the regimes of Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.

Revenue Needed

Those players may want to give thanks to the CEO of Pala Interactive, Jim Ryan if online poker and gambling does find its way to becoming regulated in Illinois. Ryan informed the legislators that legalizing sports betting while leaving other gambling offerings to the side is only doing half the job.

Illinois is in dire need of raising revenue and would be missing out on lots of it if only sports betting is addressed. However, lawmakers are still uncertain what those dollar amounts might be, with Lang pointing out that the sports wager estimates he has been told run the gamut from $50 million to $350 million.

A handful of states have regulated sports betting since the ban was lifted and Illinois is among several more states that have toyed with the idea of climbing aboard. A frontrunner for governor in next month’s election, J.B. Pritzker, is in favor of legalization.

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