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Illinois Considers Sports Betting

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March Madness fans in Illinois could not legally bet on Monday’s championship game. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision expected this spring could open the door to states allowing sports betting, both in-person and online.

Lawmakers in Illinois and more than a dozen other states are considering proposals that would regulate the industry.

A study from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, LLC shows earnings could total $681 million in the state, according to Chris Grove, managing director of sports with the firm. That could mean tax revenue in the tens of millions.

Grove, gaming lobbyists, professional sports representatives and others testified at a hearing Tuesday about bringing sports betting to Illinois. Several bills are under consideration, including one that would allow the betting at existing casinos and online platforms, taxing it at 12.5 percent. Another would make it available at racetracks.

Advocates for gaming argued against steep taxes and fees. They say competitive payouts will be needed to attract customers who are already gambling illegally online.

Democratic state Sen. Bill Cunningham of Chicago suggested the challenges to regulating the industry and attracting betters away from the black market might not be worth the trouble.

“I’m just wondering if there’s a way to do that and still present a competitive gaming product to people who are enjoying it now offshore. It seems like we still have a pretty steep hill to climb,” Cunningham said.

Meanwhile, representatives from horse racing industry advocated for their piece of the sports gaming pie. And representatives from the MLB and NBA made a pitch for professional leagues to be a part of the regulatory process and share in the profits.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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