Illinois Legislators Mull Betting Law Amendments, Rhode Island Bill for Casino Stipend Filed

  • Illinois Rep. Bob Rita proposed an amendment to the state’s sports betting legislation on Monday
  • Among other changes to gambling rules, it would allow in-state collegiate betting until 2023
  • Illinois lawmakers failed to discuss online gambling legislation, which must now wait until the fall
  • Rhode Island bill 2021-H 6355 seeks to guarantee a stipend for communities that host casinos
Illinois and US flags
Illinois lawmakers have considered legalizing in-state collegiate wagering during the final day of the legislative session, while a new Rhode Island bill aims to guarantee a stipend for communities which host the state’s two casinos. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update June 1, 2021: The Illinois House on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 521 following a 96-11 vote in favor of passage.

A busy Memorial Day

Despite representing a national holiday, Memorial Day saw officials in the states of Illinois and Rhode Island continue to mull legislation in regard to their gambling laws.

bettors to wager on in-state college teams on a two-year trial basis

On the final scheduled day of the legislative session in Illinois, lawmakers unveiled House Amendment 1 to SB 521. The omnibus gambling legislation would permit bettors to wager on in-state college teams on a two-year trial basis. The amendment passed through the legislature early Tuesday morning and now just requires Governor JB Pritzker’s signature.

Illinois lawmakers failed to consider the issue of online gambling legalization, however. HB 3142, or the Internet Gaming Act, will now likely surface again during a veto session in the fall.

In Rhode Island, Rep. John Edwards has introduced 2021-H 6355. The legislation aims to guarantee a stipend for the towns which host the state’s two casinos.

Collegiate betting in the cards

Illinois became the ninth state to legalize sports wagering in 2019, and has since generated upwards of $3.6bn in total betting handle. However, state law has always prohibited betting on in-state college teams.

Legislators debated the issue of in-state wagering in April. Rep. Mike Zalewski argued that the ban limited the Illinois market by up to 15%. Meanwhile, a representative of the University of Illinois defended the ban by insisting that it protected collegiate athletes from negative messages online.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Rita, House Amendment 1 to SB 521 would allow in-state college betting as a Tier 1 wager. This means bettors would not be able to wager on specific players, only the outcome of a fixture. The legislation also requires residents to place their bets in person rather than online.

If passed by the governor, the legislation would take effect immediately. The law would run through July 1, 2023.

In addition to allowing in-state collegiate betting, the amended bill would prohibit local governments from taxing video gambling machines. It would also permit fraternal organizations to apply for gaming machine licenses even if their municipality has banned them.

Online gambling efforts fall flat

In February, hopes for legal online casino gambling in Illinois seemed high after Rep. Rita introduced HB 3142. The legislation sought to legalize online gambling at the state’s casinos and racetracks with three online casino skins per licensee and a tax of 12% on revenue.

the state’s online casino hopes rest on a veto session in the fall

With lawmakers failing to consider that legislation on Monday, the state’s online casino hopes rest on a veto session in the fall – an extra period that usually serves to finalize rules developed in the spring. The veto session got canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of the reason for the delay rests on a request for more information on the market’s potential. In May, Illinois senators filed a bill calling for estimates of potential online casino revenue. They set a deadline of October 1 to give them time to consider the data before the veto session in November.

Edwards backs stipend guarantee

In Rhode Island, Rep. John Edwards has introduced a bill that aims to guarantee a stipend for communities that host the state’s two Twin River casinos. Through 2021-H 6355, filed last week, Lincoln and Tiverton would receive at least $3m each year regardless of whether the casinos are operational for the entire period.

In a statement, Edwards explained why he believes the measure is necessary. He said: “Last year during the pandemic, Tiverton did not receive their full stipend due to the closing of the casinos, and the amount due them was not addressed in a prorated manner.” Edwards argued that host communities should get compensation for any similar closures in the future.

Lawmakers have referred the bill to the House Finance Committee for consideration.