Illinois sports betting bill expected next week

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Illinois’ sports betting bill could be ready next week, Rep. Mike Zalewski (D, Riverside) said. This comes as the legislative session ticks towards its conclusion May 31.

Zalewski has been working on HB 3308 since February, and says that they have held several hearings to get input from different stakeholders.

“I don’t think anyone can accuse us of doing anything under the wire or in a rushed way,” he said. “We’re doing it as best we can to be transparent and open about our dialogue.”

There is a lot of pressure to pass the bill this month. Governor JB Pritzker’s budget proposal calls for $200 million in sports betting revenue starting in July.

Neighboring Iowa and Indiana have also sent sports betting bills to their governors’ desks in recent days, but neither have been signed.

“We are in a race with Indiana and Iowa,” Zalewski said. “I feel an abundant amount of pressure to get this done by May 31.”

Despite that sense of urgency, very few details of the bill have been publicly finalized. Among the choices lawmakers have to make are whether to allow mobile betting and/or in-person betting and settling on the tax rate and licensing fees. Some have also questioned whether betting on in-state college sports should be banned.

The bill is currently empty with five amendments. Each amendment is essentially a different vision for the bill.

“When we do it we want to do it right so we don’t have to come back and fix it,” Rep. Robert Rita (D, Blue Island) said. Rita wrote one of the five amendments. Zalewski wrote the other four. Rita’s version would bar companies who have skirted current gambling laws from getting licenses in Illinois.

Complicating this process is different cries from different gambling groups inside and outside the state, who all want the bill to favor their business strategies.

“It’s very delicate and you have to look at each part of it. It’s not what every entity would want, you have to take it and shape it in a form that would be right,”  Rita said of making all sides happy.

Indiana’s and Iowa’s bills are friendlier to would-be sports books than Illinois’ current proposals. Iowa’s application fee to open a sports book is $45,000. Indiana’s is $100,000. Illinois could ask for as much as $10 million.

“No nearby state has our dense complexity in terms of population with the city of Chicago and its suburbs,” Zalewski said. “I don’t consider a large license fee a barrier to entry. We have large, complex companies that are interested in doing this. We don’t want to short-sell ourselves as a state.”

Neither state representative would promise that sports betting would come to Illinois by a specific date even if the bill passed this month.

“We still have a lot of competing concepts out there, but we’re making really good progress,” Zalewski said.

Zalewski says “new language” will be added to the bill as soon as next week, and there will be a hearing as well.

Bobby Oler @bobbyoler

Bobby Oler @bobbyoler

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