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The Illinois legislature has set the stage for an October discussion on online gambling and sports betting following Wednesday’s committee hearing in Chicago.
The House Gaming Subcommittee heard testimony from various stakeholders on an amendment to Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Bob Rita, which would not only bring slots and table games to the state’s three racetracks but also provide casinos with substantial tax breaks.
Mark Bennett, president and general manager of Jumer’s Casino and Hotel in Rock Island, Illinois, which is operated by Delaware North, said, while the casino is happy to support video gaming terminals at racetracks, they would prefer it only on “live racing days.”
“We support VGT expansion in areas of the state that can support it,” Bennett said. “But not at dormant tracks. We do support other forms of gaming and the elimination of the $2 casino admission tax.”
Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, told committee members the association’s position on VGT’s has not changed.
“Cannibalization and saturation are not abstract talking points,” Swoik said.
While video gaming was the main subject of the three-hour hearing, representatives from the city of Chicago and Cook County were also on hand to discuss the potential for a publicly owned casino in Chicago.
Much like Major League Baseball’s postseason, lawmakers and industry stakeholders are now focused on October.
Swoik said, residents do not have a safe, legal venue to participate in sports betting, daily fantasy sports or online casino gaming in Illinois. Instead, they go to the “black market.”
“We can reach new, untapped markets with these new forms of gaming,” he said.
Illinois has been attempting to pass an extensive gaming package for some time but political dissonance has prevented such a bill from progressing within the state legislature.
Much like a handful of other states in the Midwest, Illinois will take a hard look at an expanded gaming package following mid-term elections.