Sports Betting Takes Central Stage at Illinois House Committee Hearing
Category : Events & Reports
Illinois legislators bullish on benefits from the legalization of sports betting
Legal sports betting is coming to Illinois and the question is not “if” anymore, but when and what the state’s wagering regulatory framework will look like, it has become clear from a four-hour hearing on the matter that took place on Wednesday in Springfield.
During the hearing, members of the House Committee on Revenue and Finance heard input from industry stakeholders, major sports leagues, representatives from different cities and towns, associations representing professional sports players, and a number of other interested parties.
The potential expansion of gambling in the state has been discussed for several years now, but bills on the matter have failed to advance too far in the Legislature. A legislative piece by Rep. Bob Rita and his fellow legislator from the Senate, Sen. Terry Link, has been what has kindled the gambling expansion debate in the state.
SB 7 was originally introduced early in 2017 and has been amended several times since then to propose the construction of new casinos in the state as well as the addition of slots and other gaming machines at local horserace tracks. Most recently, the piece was extended with provisions regarding the legalization of sports betting, online gambling, and daily fantasy sports.
The Wednesday hearing was the second of two concerned with the potential gambling expansion in the state. Sports betting was the main topic of that second hearing. It seems that a number of legislators have already made up their minds and believe that legal sports betting will benefit Illinois.
Highlights from Wednesday’s Hearing
While Rep. Rita has been among the most active lobbyists for gambling expansion in the state, other bills on the matter were produced this year and more are expected to be drafted in the coming months as Illinois is clearly gearing up preparations for the addition of more legal gambling options.
Rep. Lou Lang said on Wednesday that he plans to introduce his own bill on the matter. He further revealed that he is on his third draft currently, but will not be presenting any piece until “it’s been distributed to all of the stakeholders” for their input. Online sports betting and daily fantasy sports will be part of the bill, Rep. Lang has pointed out.
In his comments during the hearing, the lawmakers also stressed on the importance of not rushing the state’s sports gambling legislation, pointing to Pennsylvania as an example of how speedy legalization is affecting the market’s lure and potential.
Pennsylvania legalized sports betting last October as part of a sweeping gambling reform. However, it implemented a 36% tax on gross revenue and a $10-million license application fee, which resulted in just four of the state’s 13 eligible operators applying for a sports betting license.
“If you do it too fast, you make a real mess of this, as the state of Pennsylvania did,” Rep. Lang said Wednesday.
The introduction of a so-called “integrity fee” or some form of royalty for professional sports leagues was another issue discussed during the Wednesday hearing. Four states have launched sports betting since the mid-May SCOTUS ruling that lifted a long-standing federal wagering ban, but none of them have implemented an integrity fee.
The fee has been pushed for by the nation’s professional sports leagues, with those asking to be contributed a portion of the proceeds generated by legal sports betting as wagering offering is practically based on their own product.
Rep. Lang shared his thoughts on the matter during the Wednesday hearing, saying that he had no problem “giving major leagues a fee, but I want to give them a fee for something.” The lawmaker further elaborated that if leagues want to be contributed a share of sports betting revenue they should provide something (“… data, photos, marketing data”) the state’s sports betting market needs to improve its sports betting product.
While a sports betting legislation could be introduced during next month’s veto session of the state Legislature, this is not likely to happen, particularly bearing in mind the upcoming mid-term election on November 6. With that said, lawmakers will probably seek to move to legalizing betting early next year.
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