Illinois Lawmakers Set On Legalizing Sports Betting

Mar 21, 2019

Illinois Democrats are offering several options on how legal sports gambling could work in the state. 

There are four different scenarios on the table: one would allow for an unlimited online betting platform, while another would license the state’s 10 casinos and three race tracks. 

But why so many choices?

“We want to give our colleagues a menu of options and we’ll try to whittle down what works best,” said state Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside who’s been heading negotiations. He said he doesn’t want to lock in on one specific approach just yet. 

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is counting on $200 million dollars from sports gambling licensing fees, to make up for additional spending in his budget proposal. 

Zalewski said he and other Democrats want to make sure they fulfill that plan. He said the proposals have stayed true to what the governor envisioned—even though there are some minor changes.

“I don’t think he has a problem with us altering—he wants us to be good faith negotiators, which we are trying to be,” he said. “So all in all, as a starting point, we accomplished a lot of what he asked for," Zalewski said.

Pritzker’s budget proposal left many questions unanswered, especially  specifics on what a legal platform would look like. Now, lawmakers have a lot to choose from before the end of session in May.

Lawmakers will hear from stakeholders next week in what is expected to be one of numerous hearings on the issue. 

Sports Gambling 'Menu'

Option 1- Classical New Jersey Model

  • Allows for online and in-person bets
  • Allows for sports betting on riverboats and racetracks
  • $10 million licensing fee; $250,000 renewal fee every five years
  • Illinois Gaming board would help oversee and reinforce rules

Option 2- Mississippi Model

  • Allows betting only when a bettor is on site with a device
  • Licenses would go to racetracks and casinos, along with 10 online operators that have brick-and-mortar locations.
  • $10 million licensing fee; $500,000 renewal fee every four years
  •  “Integrity fee” for pro sports leagues, if adopted by the Illinois Gaming Board

Option 3- Professional Sports Leagues 

  • Casinos and racetracks can offer in-person and mobile sports betting, with the opportunity for online bettering licenses
  • Pay an “integrity fee” to pro sports leagues
  • $10 million licensing fee
  • Leagues provide player data; sports wagering operators also provide betting data in real-time with leagues

Option 4- Oversight by the Illinois Department of the Lottery

  • This approach would give the state 50 percent of the revenue 
  • Lottery decides most of the rules as well as who to license