Illinois Sets The Stage For Sports Betting And Online Gambling Push Later This Year

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Illinois took a last-minute crack at an omnibus online gambling and daily fantasy sports bill last year, and it looks like the same approach is back on the menu in 2018, this time with sports betting thrown into the mix.

An omnibus amendment that would legalize sports betting, online gambling and DFS has been added to an existing land-based casino expansion bill, S 7. The new amendments were introduced by Rep. Robert Rita, the chair of the Illinois House Gaming Subcommittee.

The amendment to the Senate bill replaced an already contentious piece of legislation that seeks to expand land-based gaming, including a land-based casino to Chicago.

Strike one for sports betting and online casino

An attempt to rush the newly amended S 7 through the legislature before a scheduled recess was unsuccessful on Monday.

During a Memorial Day hearing, Rita’s subcommittee approved the amendment but the bill itself failed to pass the Illinois House Executive Committee. Despite a majority 5-4 vote, S 7 failed to meet the required six-vote threshold it needed.

Reports on Tuesday indicated the bill could see further amendments and another possible committee vote.

Testimony during the hearing seemed neutral to positive on the issues of sports betting and online gambling in Illinois. Based on the way the hearing went, there’s a good possibility the topics will be revisited and hopefully fleshed out later in the year.

Whether they remain in S 7 or are decoupled at some point is anyone’s guess.

Not much meat on the amendment bone

As currently constituted, the amendments are acting as a placeholder:

Article 5. Fantasy Sports Contest Act

Section 5-1. Short title. This Article may be cited as the Fantasy Sports Contest Act. References in this Article to “this Act” mean this Article.

Article 10. Internet Gaming Act

Section 10-1. Short title. This Article may be cited as the Internet Gaming Act. References in this Article to “this Act” mean this Article.

Article 15. Sports Wagering Act

Section 15-1. Short title. This Article may be cited as the Sports Wagering Act. References in this Article to “this Act” mean this Article.

The lack of specificity likely signals a lack of consensus amongst legislators on how best to approach these somewhat thorny gaming issues.

Second year in a row Illinois has thrown a Hail Mary

As noted above, this marks the second year in a row the Illinois legislature has taken on gaming expansions at the 11th hour.

With the clock winding down on the 2017 legislative session the Illinois Senate passed legislation legalizing online gaming and DFS. The momentum failed to carry over to the House, and the measure eventually withered and died on the vine.

This year it’s the House that is getting the ball rolling.

What’s the remaining timeline?

Whether it remains part of S 7 or not, there are two paths forward for the online gaming-DFS-sports betting in 2018:

  1. If the governor vetoes the budget the legislature could return in June and consider other bills, like S 7, at that time.
  2. The legislature will return from its recess after the November elections and could tackle these issues during the lame-duck session.

Option B is the more likely route for the following reasons:

  • Waiting until November provides the legislature with time to craft sensible legislation and whip up the necessary support.
  • It also removes the usual hurdle of passing contentious legislation during an election year.
  • It might also provide some urgency, as it’s likely other states will have acted on sports betting legislation.

But things happen quickly and behind the scenes in Illinois. So this might not be the last time you’ve heard about these topics in the short term.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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