Leagues Back Legal Sports Betting in Illinois

Illinois lawmakers considering the legalization of sports betting have received positive opinions from professional sports leagues.

An Illinois Senate committee met recently to discuss a proposed state law on legalized sports betting. Like several other states in the US, Illinois is considering the possibility of passing a law that would allow real-money wagering on individual professional, amateur, and college sports games. Currently, federal law – in the form of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) – prevents Illinois and most other states from offering sports wagers.

The PASPA is currently being considered by the United States Supreme Court in a case involving the state of New Jersey. A ruling in the case is expected soon, so states like Illinois are preparing by considering or even passing legislation in an attempt to be ready to offer real-money sports betting if SCOTUS rules in favor of New Jersey, deeming the PASPA unconstitutional.

Support from sports leagues

The proposed law in Illinois would allow casinos in the state to take wagers at their land-based locations as well as online. The online service would be limited to within the borders of the state. The idea has now gained support from professional sports leagues like the NBA and the MLB, both of which had representatives at the recent Senate committee meeting.

According to the Chicago Tribune, NBA senior vice president Dan Spillane was on hand during the meeting and stated: “The time has come for a different approach to give sports fans a safe and legal way to bet on sporting events while protecting the integrity of our competitions.” In the past, the NBA was strongly opposed to sports wagering, arguing that the integrity of the games would be in question. However, the group has since changed its views.

Also in attendance during the meeting, was the head of investigations for Major League Baseball, Bryan Seeley. Both Seeley and Spillane told lawmakers that they would like to make sure that games stay competitive and free of corruption if sports betting were to be legalized. The leagues feel that a regulated legal betting framework would provide the information needed for internal investigations to be completed regarding misconduct within the leagues.

The NBA and MLB would also like to see an integrity fee paid to their associations as part of sports betting regulations. The casinos providing the sports betting services would pay a percentage of sports wagers to the leagues, and the leagues would use the money to cover the costs of ensuring that games were honest and fair.

Positive and negative

According to NBC Chicago, Eilers and Krejcik Gaming LLC’s managing director Chris Grove was also in attendance during the hearing. Las Vegas-based gaming analyst Grove estimates that as much as $680m (£482.94m) is spent each year in the state of Illinois on sports betting. If the state were to legalize the activity, a 10% tax rate would potentially see $68m (£48.29m) in revenues generated.

The money raised from sports betting taxes would be a huge boost to the state, yet there are still those who are opposed to the idea. Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems executive director Anita Bedell was in attendance and stated that online gambling could get kids hooked as it is a ‘gateway’ and that kids are already seeing a large number of gambling ads on social media.

If Illinois is able to pass sports betting legislation into law, the new industry would not be allowed to start until the US Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey in the Christie vs NCAA case.

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