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Pritzker Signs $45 Billion Infrastructure Plan; Legalizes Sports Betting

Daisy Contreras
NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Friday signed into law a long-awaited $45 billion infrastructure plan as well as a massive gambling expansion bill that legalizes sports wagering. Springfield, IL., June 28, 2019.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Friday signed into law a long-awaited $45 billion infrastructure plan.

The money will help restore the state’s crumbling roads and bridges and help maintain public buildings. This is the first plan of its kind in 10 years.

Illinois also joined 16 other jurisdictions, including D.C., in legalizing sports betting. Pritzker signed that along with the capital bill. This provision is part of a gaming expansion plan allowing casinos, race tracks and certain venues to offer sports wagering. Six additional casino licenses will also be granted under the gambling measure. 

Pritzker said the construction investment will impact other areas the state is struggling to fix—including university enrollment. “Nearly half of our state’s high school graduates leave Illinois for colleges in other states in part because our universities’ buildings and facilities are crumbling.”

Fees from legal sports gambling and more casinos will go toward those repairs. To cover some of the costs for roads and bridges, the state’s gas tax will double to 38 cents beginning July 1. The tax on a pack of cigarettes will also go up $1. Registration fees for vehicles will also go up Jan. 2020. 

The final plan was made possible because many groups, including labor and business, were concerned about the state’s economic future, Pritzker said. “It’s not every day that a governor gets to thank business and labor in the same moment, but you came together around these measures,” he said. 

As for sports wagering, state Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, said he predicts a framework should be up and running soon – just in time for Super Bowl. Link was behind the gambling proposal along with state Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island.

The Illinois Gaming Board is tasked with deciding who obtains a sports wagering license, and they will be drafting rules and reviewing final applications. 

Once that happens, Link said sports bettors could start placing legal bets. “I think some of the facilities will be able to do that, because they have the unique technology available. So, I think they will get up quicker than others,” he said. 

But while that starts to take shape, Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, said there are certain things to keep in mind. “It’s critical that Illinois sports teams and other newcomers to the gaming business follow the lead of the state’s licensed gaming operators in advancing responsible gaming practices that ensure protections for consumers, bets and game integrity.”

Pritzker will be touring the state, making stops over the next few days in communities like Rockford and  Williamson County (Walker’s Bluff),  that will benefit from both, capital investment and gambling expansion.

Daisy reported on statehouse issues for our Illinois Issues project. She's a Public Affairs Reporting program graduate from the University of Illinois Springfield. She also graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and has an associates degrees from Truman College. Daisy is from Chicago where she attended Lane Tech High School.
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