The Senate Gaming Committee met this week to discuss sports wagering legislation pending in the Senate, holding a “subject matter only” hearing on April 3.
Though no votes on any proposal took place, lawmakers discussed the potential benefits and pitfalls of proposals that would allow for the authorization and regulation of sports betting or electronic sports betting in Illinois (SB 2478), including legislation that would authorize the sports wagering licenses at horse racing facilities and inter-track wagering locations (SB 3125). Another bill considered by the committee (SB 3432) would authorize sports wagering, including electronic betting, at riverboat gaming facilities.
Advocates underscored that legalizing and regulating sports wagering would allow the state to capture tax revenue that is currently being directed to illegal, black-market betting operations. Those pushing for the measure cited a financial windfall estimated at anywhere from $300 million to $680 million annually, which if taxed at 10 percent could lead to an estimated $30 million to $60 million in new tax revenue for the state.
Representatives for professional sports leagues, which have opposed sports betting in the past, now offer their support for measures that offer a legal and safe way to bet on sporting events; however, the MLB and NBA also argued for a small percentage of any future profits from future gaming on league games, noting it is their games that would be generating the revenues.
However, opponents raised concerns about the impact legalization of sports wagering could have on Illinois’ current casinos, while others expressed concerns that expanding the gaming industry in Illinois to include sports gambling would lead to increased problem and pathological gambling in the state.
There is currently a federal ban on sports wagering for most states; however, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a decision to overturn the ban. It is widely anticipated that the nation’s high court will open the gate to sports betting. All of Illinois’ neighboring states, with the exception of Wisconsin, have introduced legislation to conduct sports wagering in the event sports betting is legalized.