Governor of Illinois Wants Sports Betting Revenue to Ease State’s Budget

Pencil and money with sports betting chart
Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois wants sports betting revenue to help with the state’s budget.

30-second summary

  • Illinois governor believes $200m (£151m) from sports betting fees could help the state’s budget
  • Calls for 20 in-person or online sports betting licenses at $10m (£7.5m) each
  • Illinois has introduced several sports betting bills, but nothing has passed

Filling a $3.2bn hole

Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois hopes that sports gambling will aid the state’s budget problems if the state will only legalize it.

Illinois hasn’t passed any bills to legalize sports betting, but several have been introduced. The only states where it is legal are Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

That, of course, isn’t stopping the new governor of Illinois from detailing the benefits that the sports gambling industry can have on the state’s budget issues, reports The News Tribune.

According to the report, during a state budget address last month, the governor said that the state could rely on $200m (£151m) from legalized sports gambling licensing fees, which would go toward the state’s $3.2bn (£2.4bn) budget hole.

While his proposal has yet to be formulated as a bill, the report went on to say that Pritzker is keen to create 20 in-person or online sports betting licenses at $10m (£7.5m) each. Operators would also be charged a $5,000 (£3,800) yearly renewal fee.

The Illinois Casino Gaming Association is, reportedly, interested in seeing sports betting legalized in the state despite its previous opposition to gambling expansion.

Tom Swoik, the association’s executive director, which represents nine state casinos, said: “My members are in favor of sports betting as long as the casinos can participate in it. We think that it’s one of the few markets left out there where expansion will help the industry and help the state, as opposed to additional casinos or slots at racetracks. That’s just going to shift money around.”

For such a move to take place, though, the state first needs to legalize expanded wagering, but that doesn’t look as if it’s about to happen.

FOMO is driving push

Illinois isn’t the only state that’s considering the legalization of sports betting.

According to a report from the end of January, 15 US states have pending bills to legalize sports betting. Among those states are ArizonaColoradoNew York, and Tennessee. Reports suggest that they are pushing for bills to pass later this year.

Sara Slane, the American Gambling Association’s (AGA) senior vice-president for public affairs and lead sports betting lobbyist, said the legalization of sports betting in the US is gaining pace with the number of bills pending in several states.

She said: “It has certainly moved a lot faster than anyone thought it would.”

It remains to be seen what states have their bills passed this year and which will continue to push for such legislation. Since a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling last May overturned a 1992 law that barred sports betting, it seems that several US states are keen to move.

The outgoing mayor of Chicago has also pointed out the benefits of a potential casino in the city, which could ease its pension crisis.

In December, Rahm Emanuel, who is due to leave his office in May, said that he wants to open a casino to help with this crisis. The chair of Chicago’s City Council’s Finance Committee noted last month that the legalization of video gambling machines could also help.