Your Turn, Illinois: Sports Betting Up For Debate In Upcoming Hearing

Written By Eric Ramsey on March 27, 2018
Illinois sports betting 2018

There are a few good ways to keep tabs on the progress of sports betting legislation.

This bill tracker is a good place to start, as bills are usually the first tangible evidence that something is happening. Dozens of sports betting bills have popped up over the course of the last year, and they’re all listed on that page. It’s a one-stop shop for the most basic information.

We’re also keeping an eye on the scheduled hearings in statehouses across the country, though, both in committees and in full chambers. These hearings can provide real insight into the tone of the conversation and the appetite from stakeholders. West Virginia, for example, conducted thorough discourse before it passed its recent law.

Several other states will likely hold hearings in the coming months as they anticipate a ruling in the NJ sports betting case. Lawmakers from Maryland and Kansas are scheduled to meet on the topic this week, and another just announced its own hearing.

Illinois has several sports betting bills on file, and gaming legislators have scheduled their first deep dive into the matter next week.

IL sports betting hearing

Lawmakers will convene in Chicago to discuss Illinois sports betting on April 3. That’s next Tuesday, starting at 10 a.m.

The hearing has been called by the Gaming Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Steve Stadelman. He lists the subject matter like so: “Sports Wagering — Status and Regulatory Systems”.

The committee will consider the issue as a whole, following along with at least three (very) different bills on the topic. There are also a few other proposals related to the lottery and video gaming that are up for discussion.

IL sports betting bills

Three bills are specifically listed in the subject of the meeting:

  • S 2478 (Sen. Stadelman): Creates the Sports Betting Consumer Protection Act
  • S 3125 (Sen. William Brady): Amends the Illinois Horse Racing Act to allow for sports betting
  • S 3432 (Sen. Napolean Harris): Creates the Sports Wagering Act

There are at least two more sports betting bills on file in the House, both currently stuck in the Rules Committee.

Will a compromise bill appear?

Each of those bills has some pretty significant flaws that could hinder their progress.

  • Sen. Stadelman’s bill does not specifically move to legalize the sports betting. Instead, it directs “the Board” to “adopt rules which prohibit or authorize” the activity at its discretion. The board would presumably be the Illinois Gaming Board or the Illinois Racing Board.
  • Sen. Brady’s bill explicitly gives oversight to the IRB, which is fine. But it appears only to authorize sports betting at horse racing tracks, leaving Illinois casinos out in the cold. Those casinos generate tons of tourism and tax revenue for the state, so their wishes will almost certainly be considered in sports betting legislation.
  • Sen. Harris’ bill is the most complete of the three, but it may have the most issues in the eyes of some. Harris, a former NFL linebacker, based his legislation on the preferred blueprint from the NBA and Major League Baseball. The two leagues have joined forces to lobby for their model, which includes an integrity fee and other concessions.

The three proposals are very different, so the hearing presents a good opportunity to inspect their merits side by side. Since none of the bills are likely passable on their own, the meeting should help identify the sticking points. And it seems possible that a combined, compromise bill could emerge from the discussion.

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Eric Ramsey

Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.

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