The Illinois House Executive Committee met on April 28 to discuss “gaming proposals.”
The most significant gaming items were on the agenda: online casino legislation, in-person sports betting registration and betting on in-state college teams, to name a few.
As you might expect, these topics have proponents and opponents. In some cases, we know specific politicians who are for or against a given policy. In others, we know of entire industries for or against said policies.
Let’s get to it.
Online casino legislation
It would legalize online slots, table games and poker across Illinois. Right now, six states have some form of legal online casino.
The House bill includes a six-month in-person registration requirement, a 12% tax rate and a maximum of 36 skins.
Who’s for online casino in Illinois
Rep. Robert Rita, committee chair
Robert Rita did not offer much insight on internet gaming at the hearing, but he co-sponsored HB 3142.
Rep. Jonathan Carroll
Jonathan Carroll did not speak on this panel but is also a co-sponsor of the Internet Gaming Act.
Rep. Daniel Didech
Daniel Didech led the online casino panel.
He argued that the unregulated online casino market is a “dangerous status quo,” and advocated for a regulated market.
“These illegal websites are highly predatory for problem gamblers and are advertised and operated without any regard for the safety of individuals who are struggling with gambling addiction. On top of that, these illegal websites do not create taxes or create jobs and are a significant drain on the Illinois economy.”
Multiple witnesses also spoke to the positive economic impact that online casino gaming could have in Illinois.
John Pappas, the founder and CEO of Corridor Consulting, estimated that within five years, an Illinois online casino market could generate $1 billion per year in tax revenue if licensing fees are factored in.
Who’s skeptical/against online casino gaming
Multiple witnesses spoke to the idea that internet gaming would not cannibalize brick-and-mortar casinos in Illinois. Considering that the casinos are all in favor of internet gaming, this makes sense.
Rep. Tim Butler
But Tim Butler challenged proponents by bringing up the video gaming terminal (VGT) industry, suggesting that they’ll be most negatively impacted by online casino.
Butler referred to these as “mom-and-pop businesses.” For what it’s worth, he didn’t explicitly oppose the bill, but he expressed concern.
A few witnesses then testified on behalf of VGTs and in opposition to online casino gaming.
It appears that the biggest pushback against online casino will be from the VGT industry, and lawmakers concerned about potential cannibalization.
In-state college betting
The topic of in-state college betting kicked off the hearing.
As of now, Illinoisans are unable to place legal sports bets on in-state college teams. This includes Illinois, Northwestern, Loyola-Chicago, etc.
Rep. Michael Zalewski filed a bill this year that would repeal the ban, which was discussed on the panel.
Who’s for a repeal of the Illinois college betting ban
Rep. Michael Zalewski
Michael Zalewski co-sponsored the bill and spoke on its behalf at the hearing.
He said that the ban “reduces our marketplace and makes us less of a robust marketplace than we otherwise would be.”
Zalewski also noted that it’s easy enough for someone in Illinois to drive to Indiana or Iowa to place a bet on an Illinois team.
Pappas estimated that the state’s market is 15% smaller because of the rule.
Rep. Jonathan Carroll
Carroll is a co-sponsor of Zalewski’s bill and seemingly offered support at the hearing.
After Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman spoke about how this repeal could put added pressure on players. Carroll challenged him, asking if it was true that a college could take away a student-athlete’s scholarship for poor athletic performance.
Who’s against/skeptical of a repeal
Josh Whitman, Illinois athletic director
Whitman represented all 13 of Illinois’ Division I athletic directors at the hearing.
Whitman argued that while it’s possible to drive across the border to place sports bets in Iowa and Illinois where it’s allowed, it’s “easier said than done.”
His main concern was that in-state college sports betting affects student athletes’ mental health.
Here’s an excerpt of this testimony:
“They are engrossed in their phones, and … most of the time, they base a lot of their self-concept or self-image about people they’ve never met, what they say about them on social media. And that’s a daily battle that we fight in college-athletics today. By allowing people in our state to bet on our own student athletes, we’re only opening the door and inviting people to have those intense, threatening, abusive interactions with our student-athletes and that’s something that myself and my colleagues strongly oppose.”
Rep. Tim Butler
Consider Butler to be the “skeptical” category, as he did not explicitly oppose a repeal.
However, he agreed with Whitman that crossing state lines to place sports bets is easier said than done, and that it’s not as easy of a workaround as Zalewski made it seem.
In-person sports betting registration
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker did not renew his executive order allowing for mobile sports betting registration in early April. Now, new bettors in Illinois have to visit a casino to sign up for an online sports betting account.
In-person registration is here to stay until 2022, unless there is a legislative fix. We won’t have mobile registration until the Illinois Gaming Board issues a mobile-only license, and the earliest that can happen is 2022.
Who’s for online sports betting registration
Several people testified on behalf of online sportsbook registration.
Most notably, Trevor Hayes of William Hill (right), and Jeff Kaplan of Penn National Gaming (left).
Penn National Gaming does businesses in Illinois as Barstool Sportsbook.
Who’s on the fence/against online registration
Rep. Robert Rita
There was a notable lack of support for online registration among lawmakers.
Many spoke to how big of a sticking point it was to get the 2019 gaming bill passed, even if they didn’t say if they were personally for or against it.
“That was a really important part of what the final outcome of the bill was.”
Rita defended the rule’s original intent, and noted that brick-and-mortar casinos are a priority.
Rep. Tim Butler
Butler agreed with Rita about how important this stipulation was to get the 2019 bill enacted.
Rush Street Interactive (Rivers Casino)
Nobody from Rivers Casino spoke at the hearing, but Rivers has notably opposed online registration in the past.