CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker is hoping the burgeoning sports-gambling industry will help solve Illinois’ budget troubles, but state lawmakers must first legalize expanded wagering after years of failed attempts.
Pritzker said during his budget address last month that the state could count on $200 million from legalized sports gambling licensing fees to help fill the $3.2 billion budget hole.
Pritzker’s proposal has not yet been put into bill form, but he wants to create 20 licenses for in-person or online sports betting, which would be sold for $10 million each, the Chicago Tribune reported. Operators would be charged a $5,000 annual renewal fee.
But in order to get that money, lawmakers must legalize expanded wagering.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year ended Nevada’s monopoly on state-sanctioned sports betting. Illinois is one of about a dozen states where lawmakers are considering legislation to legalize sports gambling.
Illinois lawmakers have made multiple attempts to expand gambling in the past decade.
“Every day we argue about who’s in and who’s out is money that goes to other states and to the black market,” Pritzker said.
The Illinois Casino Gaming Association, which represents nine state casinos, is interested in seeing sports betting legalized if its members can get in on the industry. The association previously opposed efforts to expand gambling, such as licensing new casinos and adding slot machines at racetracks.
“My members are in favor of sports betting as long as the casinos can participate in it,” said Tom Swoik, the association’s executive director. “We think that it’s one of the few markets left out there where expansion will help the industry and help the state, as opposed to additional casinos or slots at racetracks. That’s just going to shift money around.”
The state’s last major gambling expansion was in 2009, when Gov. Pat Quinn authorized video gambling in liquor-serving establishments such as bars and restaurants. Video gambling generated about $347 million in revenue for the state last year.