It wasn’t just opening day for baseball Thursday, it also was opening day for a bill to legalize sports betting in Illinois.
The Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee heard about various aspects of expanding gambling during an hourslong hearing Thursday, that included testimony from NBA Senior Vice President Dan Spillane. Afterward, he said the NBA supports legalizing sports betting in Illinois, but the association wants to make sure it protects the integrity of the game and protects the fans who would be placing bets.
“If sports betting is going to be successful it crowds out illegal markets, encourages people to bet in legal markets, and that’s going to create jobs and revenue for the state,” Spillane said.
Illinois’ professional sports teams support the concept. One proposal would give teams 25 cents for every $100 wagered. The teams also support online sports betting.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s budget for the fiscal year that begins this summer includes $212 million in revenue from sports betting licenses. One measure being considered would have two different classes of licenses, with 13 for casinos and racetracks and then an unlimited number of online licenses at $10 million a pop.
Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems Executive Director Anita Bedell said she worried that increasing access to gambling will come with regulation, criminal justice and social costs.
“It will cost $7 for every dollar they get in revenue,” Bedell said. “This is a bad bet for the people of Illinois.”
Bedell also said she has concerns that increasing gambling opportunities, including online sports and other betting, will open it up to young people, who become addicted to gambling.
Lawmakers now will digest all expanded gambling ideas, including online gambling and changes to video gambling.
Spillane said aside from getting a cut of the bet, part of what the league is looking for is a tool kit of protections to police and safeguard the integrity of the sport.
“So we’d be looking for a requirement that casinos cooperate with league investigations into potential violations of our rules to provide anonymized data regarding betting on our games so we can look for unusual or suspicious betting activity to screen out insiders like coaches and players from betting on our games,” he said.
He said the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing sports betting was less than a year ago and there’s time to get the law right.
“We think there’s an opportunity here for Illinois to be a model for other states,” Spillane said.
Illinois major league teams — the Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls — sent a joint letter to state Rep. Michael Zalewski. They said if wagering is legalized in Illinois it should be allowed via a mobile platform online.
“Mobile betting allows fans inclined to wager to do so easily and from the comfort of their seat, whether in the venue or when watching a game on television,” the joint letter said. “Moreover, because fans can already place bets with offshore operators via mobile apps, authorizing mobile betting in sports betting legislation is essential to the broader effort to bring bettors from the unregulated to the regulated market.”