Illinois Moves Closer to Launch with Sports Betting Application Release

Posted on December 23, 2019 - Last Updated on January 6, 2020

Though a launch date for legal sports betting in Illinois is still unknown, that day is growing closer. The latest Illinois sports betting updates include two important matters.

The Illinois Gaming Board has officially made applications for licenses available. Additionally, it has posted new emergency rules.

Breaking down the two Illinois sports betting updates

These two developments came in tandem because they are integral to each other. Each individually would serve no purpose without the other.

The license application forms create a need for emergency rules. Conversely, the emergency rules demand a reason to justify their existence, and the license applications provide that.

Most of the tenets of the emergency rules for Illinois legal sports betting govern requirements for license holders. Among them are:

  • Definitions of terms used in the applications.
  • List of positions that license holders must fill.
  • Explanation of the differences between the different licenses.
  • Disclosure of all ownership stakes.

Though most of the tenets are noncontroversial and standard for the industry, there is one area of debate. The emergency rules address licensees’ cooperation with investigations by sports governing bodies.

Emergency rules favor leagues regarding sportsbook information

An example of this would be the recent suspension of Josh Shaw by the NFL. If the league suspected another NFL player in the future had bet on NFL games at a legal Illinois sportsbook, these rules provide a way for the league to address that.

The NFL could submit a request for information regarding bets placed with that sportsbook. It would then be up to the sportsbook operator whether to deny or fulfill that request, either in part or in whole.

If the sportsbook operator were to deny the request, that may not be the final word on the matter. The rules give the IGB the authority to override that if it determines the state’s interest in doing so is sufficient.

In that case, the operator would be compelled to fulfill the request to whatever extent the state decides.

There’s no doubt that such information would be helpful to leagues like the NFL in investigating certain potential internal disciplinary matters. The criticism against rules like this, however, is just as valid.

Controversy around integrity rules in Illinois

Sportsbooks have just as much if not more to lose from integrity issues as the leagues do. Therefore, their potential benefit from a reciprocal sharing of information between the leagues and themselves is substantial, as well.

Learning about how suspicious activity took place would help sportsbooks strengthen their protections against such activity.

If the primary concern is integrity, then it would make sense for this rule to also compel the leagues to share information they uncover with the sportsbooks.

Yet, there is no provision for that in the set of rules. That may change, as these rules are set to expire after 150 days. That information provides some context for the next steps.

What’s next for legal sports betting in the Land of Lincoln

As soon as potential licensees can return their completed applications, which include things like five years’ worth of tax returns, the IGB will start considering them. It’s unclear how long that process will take.

The fact that the emergency rules expire in 150 days suggests the board would like to complete that process and award the licenses within that time. Although the board could simply adopt the emergency rules as permanent, it would still be an administrative hurdle.

Once licenses are awarded, operators can start to build out their sportsbooks in the state. At that point, the board will review the books for compliance and set a date on which they can actually start accepting wagers.

Given how long it’s taken to get to this point, Illinoisans shouldn’t expect a quick turnaround from here. Regardless, this is significant progress toward launch day.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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