Significant Gambling Changes Coming to Illinois?

  • Illinois has always been at the forefront of gambling policy changes
  • A new bill would allow riverboat casinos to move their operations onto land
  • The major sports teams in Chicago support legal sports betting if they get a piece of the action
Illinois state flag
Illinois is considering moving riverboat casinos to land and allowing sports betting.

History of Gambling in Illinois

Illinois for many years was one of the states leading the charge for gambling expansion. It was the first state to sell lottery tickets on the internet, for example.

Illinois was also the first state to react to the advent of online gambling, but that was to ban the activity before any other state. Riverboat casinos and horse racing are integral parts of the gambling landscape in Illinois.

The first riverboat casinos appeared in the state back in the 1800s. With them came many legendary stories about the deeds of those frequenting these facilities.

In the 1920s, betting on horse racing officially became legal and was extremely popular for many decades. In recent times, the popularity of horse racing across the country has been in decline.

The state lottery, established in 1974, was one of the first in the country. It has contributed significant sums over the years to a variety of great causes.

In 1991, riverboat casinos were once again made legal. However, they had to be moving on a river in order to offer gambling. This requirement ended in 1999.

Recent Changes

Commercial casinos on land became legal in 2011. At the same time, racetracks were allowed to offer some forms of gaming machines. This was to help boost their struggling revenues so they could remain open.

Gaming machines also became legal in locations like bars and truck stops, which remains a controversial decision. A lot of people say this is the case of increasing levels of gambling addiction in Illinois. Since 2012, over 30,000 video gambling machines have been installed in the state.

Riverboat Casinos Moving to Land?

A bill that passed the state senate on April 11 would allow riverboat casinos to relocate to land anywhere in Illinois. This legislation will now go to the house for consideration.

If it becomes law, it will significantly increase the popularity of these commercial casinos by making them a lot more accessible.

The aim of the bill is to assist economic development in the region and promote the tourism industry. As a result, the government would get more tax revenues for education.

New stricter regulations will be drawn up to ensure that trust in these facilities is not compromised. The government is considering several major capital-intensive projects and gambling expansion is an easy way to get more revenue.

Potential Legal Sports Betting

Since the federal ban on sports betting was ended by the Supreme Court in May 2018, most states have been considering legalization. To date, Delaware, West Virginia, New Jersey, Mississippi, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have opened sportsbooks.

It is expected that more than a dozen states will follow suit in 2019. Illinois does not want to fall behind their neighbors in the gambling expansion race because Illinois residents would then travel to states with legal sports betting and spend their money there instead of in their home state.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker included $200m (£155m) in sports betting revenues in his budget proposal for fiscal 2010.

There would be 20 sports betting licenses, each costing $10m (£7.7m) initially. A tax of 20% would be levied on gross betting revenues.

Now it seems that the major sports teams in Chicago will support the push to make sports betting legal if they get a piece of the action.

The Chicago Tribune reports: “All of Chicago’s major franchises — with the exception, so far, of the Bears — are backing a plan pushed by Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the PGA that would give professional leagues 25 cents of every $100 bet on their sports in the state.”

This fee is called an integrity fee. No state has yet included an integrity fee for the major sports leagues in a final sports betting bill.

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