It’s time to get to work for Illinois lawmakers with a batch of sports betting amendments having been filed on Thursday. Representative Mike Zalewski (D-District 23) isn’t relying on just one bill; he’s the leader of a team of legislators who filed four different sports betting amendments this week. Earlier this month, things seemed like the legalization of sports betting was a mere formality. But, then some discussions took place and the waters were muddied again. Rep Zalewski wasn’t going to take any chances and decided to cover all bases with this latest batch of bills and amendments.
These amendments are for HB 3308, which is a shell bill that Zalewski filed last month. The bill was assigned to the Revenue and Finance Committee, which Zalewski chairs. In speaking about why they are doing this in separate amendments, Zalewski said,
“What we have learned the last few months is there is great interest and agreement in the gaming industry to bring sports betting and its economic benefits to Illinois, and little agreement yet on how to best do it. By presenting these four proposals today and encouraging robust discussion on everything, I believe we can work out a plan that provides responsible regulation, a safe atmosphere for adult sports fans to bet on their favorite teams and games, and meaningful economic benefits for our businesses and our tax coffers. It’s time to get to work.”
According to one of the amendments filed yesterday, it would allow for a setup like New Jersey has, with both physical betting locations as well as online betting using digital platforms. That amendment also lays out the tax rate of 15 percent for casinos and racetracks and 20 percent for mobile betting.
Licenses under this amendment would cost $10 million, with a renewal fee of $250,000 every five years. Each licensed operator would be allowed to develop two contracts with different partners to provide online and mobile betting.
When speaking of the New Jersey model, Zalewski said:
“I think the New Jersey model is what most people expected [Illinois] to look like. It’s kinder to existing bricks-and-mortar and racetrack casinos, gives them the first slice at implementing it, and has a reasonable tax rate.”
Under the New Jersey model, the Illinois Gaming Board would have oversight.
The second amendment made has details for what’s called the “Mississippi Model,” that permits sports gambling at racetracks and casinos, but limits to 10 operators online betting. These operators must be partnered up with physical properties. Under this amendment, the license fee will be $10 million but the renewal fees are higher at $850,000 every four years.
Like the New Jersey model, the Illinois Gaming Board would have oversight of all sports betting.
The third amendment filed is the “Professional Sports League Plan” that limits sports betting to sports venues. The amendment also gives a 0.25 percent royalty to the leagues and allows for data sharing between the leagues and sports gambling operators. This is to verify accuracy and keep an eye out for illegal activity.
The fourth and final amendment, which is the “Illinois Lottery Plan,” would give Illinois Lottery the jurisdiction over all sports gambling operations in the state. It would issue just one state-issued license that would be taxed at 50 percent.
Ultimately, the goal is to legalize sports gambling by the end of this current session. Unfortunately, Illinois tends to be against gambling expansion, so whether or not online and mobile sports betting will be featured is a question no one is answering yet. Zalewski believes they may have to start with betting at brick-and-mortar establishments, then roll out the mobile betting options.
Once in the House, Zalewski will team up with Rep. Bob Rita (D-District 28) in this gaming expansion effort. Rita is supporting Zalewski, having held in-depth hearings on sports gambling in the fall last year, and is taking the lead role on an expansion of casino and video gaming.
Until more groups have had a chance to testify in committee, all of the plans laid out in these four amendments are just conversation starters.
Zalewski believes that they’ll get the most opposition from anti-gaming groups, but conflict could arise while racetracks and casinos negotiate taxes, licenses, the administrative structure, and royalties. As the bill moves through the process, Illinois will join nearly three dozen other states with active bills that are meant to legalize sports betting.
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