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House Re-Authorizes Online Horse Betting

Paul Kehrer via Flickr

Internet gambling on horse racing would once again be legal in Illinois under legislation approved Sunday by the Illinois House of Representatives.

Online and telephone horse betting has been illegal in Illinois all year — a law authorizing it expired on Dec. 31. The practice, known as "advanced deposit wagering," was a $122 million business in Illinois last year.

The legislation would also finally redistribute money from casino gambling that was supposed to shore up the struggling horse racing industry, but instead has been languishing in a state account.

A few lawmakers worried that the horsemen are being coerced — they are only receiving a fraction of the $109 million in the horse-racing fund. But Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, says that is not the case.

"This was not foisted upon them," Lang says. "There was a long, long, long, drawn-out debate and negotiation over this. The horsemen support this bill."

Some of the money would go to horsemen and some would go to Chicago State University — but the majority would go into a school construction fund.

The legislation still has to get through the Senate and be approved by the governor.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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