Illinois sports betting could gain a bit of traction next month, according to Legal Sports Report sources.
New hearings on sports betting could take place as soon as July in the Illinois legislature, sources familiar with talks behind the scenes tell LSR. While that sounds promising for Illinois sports betting advocates, the state’s legislature already adjourned for the session. Illinois remains unlikely to add legal sports betting this year, or at least until after the November elections.
Looking back in Illinois
What comes next for Illinois is anyone’s guess after a legislative session that featured a number of competing gambling bills. Five different proposals surfaced early in the session — none of which appeared ready-made to function with the others.
Sports leagues looked to be keen on Sen. Napoleon Harris’ sports betting proposal that included integrity fees. Harris is a retired NFL player, although the league does not publicly support the integrity fee concept.
One bill included provisions for land-based casinos. Another addressed mobile and online gambling. Another dealt with riverboat casinos and racetracks. You can see where the confusion grew quickly in Illinois.
Integrity fees could drive conversation
With various interests in conflict, none of the gambling bills advanced to the point of imminent passage. Leagues including the NBA and MLB fought against the proposals without integrity fees.
Expect more of the same next year from them, especially after suffering a loss in New York sports betting efforts. After failing to insert integrity fees — or royalties, as they now prefer to call them — in West Virginia or New Jersey sports betting laws, the leagues saw New York as their best hope.
A willing partner in Assemblyman Gary Pretlow helped push a fee of a fifth of one percent of all wagers into proposed legislation. Facing opposition to speedy gambling expansion in both chambers and from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, identical bills in both houses died at the June 20 session closing.
Pretlow vowed this week to bring back the integrity fee in 2019, but the leagues still face pressure to find someone willing to cut them in. That could put more focus on Illinois’s upcoming hearings for clarity on the issue.
Looking forward in Illinois
Any Illinois sports betting hearings held in the near future likely will just lay groundwork for the “lame-duck” session that happens after elections. Gov. Bruce Rauner almost assuredly would not convene a special session to address sports betting, as Connecticut is considering.
With the November elections growing closer on the horizon, almost no politician wants to wade deeply into a new issue. Late 2018 or early 2019 appears a much more likely scenario for Illinois sports betting, as well as any gambling-related legislation.
The potentially lucrative Chicago market makes Illinois a prime target for sports betting expansion. With New York sidelined until at least summer next year and Los Angeles mired in California’s drawn-out legislative negotiations, Chicago still could become the first of the three largest US cities to welcome sports betting.