Illinois lawmakers explore legalizing sports betting

On Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Revenue and Finance in Illinois held a hearing in which it discussed gambling expansion plans in the state.

The legalization of sports betting was at the forefront of the discussion where the Joint Committee heard from various stakeholders and experts including; city and town representatives, Major League Baseball (MLB) and anti-gambling groups.

Representative Bob Rita organized the hearing and is the same representative that introduced a sports betting bill last year.

Representative Lou Lang was the first to give testimony at the hearing and stressed that it important to get any sports betting legislation right, announcing that he was in the midst of writing his own bill.

Lang said: “I will not be introducing a bill until it’s been distributed to all of the stakeholders and we have taken comments. It will include internet sports and fantasy sports, as well. But I caution you to do this right, rather than quick.”

Lang cited the state of Pennsylvania and its current sports betting model which has incredibly high tax rates and licensing fees which has led to very few operators in the state applying for sports betting licenses.

Land added: “If you do it too fast, you make a real mess of this, as the state of Pennsylvania did. Their tax rate is far too high because they didn’t understand how different sports betting is from other kinds of betting.”

Lang also expressed that he is not completely against paying fees to the sports leagues as long as the state receives something in return.

Land told the committee: “I don’t have a problem giving major league sports a fee, but I want to give them a fee for something. Not a fee for nothing.

“Any fee they get ought to be in exchange for information we need – data, pictures, videos, demographic and marketing information.”

John Corvino spoke on behalf of the Chicago White Sox MLB team and discussed the dangers of sports betting and the threat it poses to the integrity of the sport.

MLB representative, Josh Alkin spoke after Corvino, highlighting that any legislation should consider league fees, mandatory use of official league data, mobile sports betting and the ability to restrict wagers.

Fantasy sports was also briefly mentioned by Representative Michael Zalewski, one of the lawmakers who led a previous attempt to legalize daily fantasy sports (DFS) in the state.

Zalewski urged the committee to include DFS in any gambling legislation put forward, saying: “They’ve been good corporate citizens. We want them to continue to flourish in Illinois. We want them to have comprehensive regulations

At the moment there is still a lot for lawmakers to consider before any solid sports betting plans materialize in the state of Illinois, but it does look like there is a lot of support for it.

Washington D.C. and Indiana are also exploring the possibilities of sports betting this week with each state holding hearings on the matter.

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