Gaming Hearings Not Expected To Feature Illinois Sports Betting — Yet

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Illinois sports betting

Although the state is holding the first of two scheduled gaming hearings in Chicago tomorrow, hot topics like Illinois sports betting and online gaming won’t be the subject of conversation until October, according to one state lobbyist. 

What’s on the agenda?

A bulk of tomorrow’s House Gaming Subcommittee hearing will center on an amendment to Senate Bill 7. That legislation failed to progress during the state’s legislative session this year amid controversy surrounding ‘sweepstakes’ kiosks that are popping up in Chicago.

According to Steve Brubaker, a lobbyist for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, Amendment 3 will provide substantial tax breaks to casinos and allow slot machines and table games at the state’s three racetracks:

“I anticipate a long discussion about the ‘sweepstakes kiosks’ exploding around Chicago and how video gaming operators feel slighted by [sweepstakes operators] being allowed to operate in the city,” Brubaker told LSR.

While some video gaming terminals (or VGTs) are permitted in Cook County, the lucrative Chicago area remains off-limits.

Gambling and politics

While no vote is scheduled for tomorrow’s hearing, Brubaker said conversations on sports betting and online gaming are sure to be happening behind the scenes. 

“You have to think anyone with a gaming license in the state is looking at online gaming and sports betting. Those are the big-ticket items.” Brubaker said.

The five-member House Gaming Subcommittee is already in for a shakeup.

At least one member — Republican Rep. Chad Hays — is leaving office, according to a staff member. Republican Rep. David Reis and Democratic Rep. Gregory Harris will not be in attendance at tomorrow’s hearing.

Brubaker said with so much turnover within the legislature on the horizon, the state might look at passing a comprehensive gaming bill at the end of next year’s legislative session. 

“There is opportunity with almost 30 or so members changing in the legislature,” he said. “There will be a plan of action should [Governor] Bruce Rauner be re-elected. There will be a plan of action if J.B. Pritzker gets elected.”

Next steps

A second hearing is scheduled for October 3 in Chicago. 

Many states such as Louisiana, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana are waiting until after November’s mid-term elections to either introduce or continue talks about sports betting and the potential for online gaming. Illinois is no different.