At the behest of the Illinois House of Representatives’ leading force on gaming issues, the Legislature will hold two hearings to explore issues ranging from iGaming to sports betting.
State representative Robert Rita (D-28) – who serves as chair of the House subcommittees on both Gaming and Sales and Other Taxes – issued a press release revealing details of the hearings.
Per Rita’s statement, the 16-year veteran of the Illinois House is hoping to form a consensus on gaming expansion ahead of the upcoming November election:
“As I have said from the beginning in working on this issue, gaming expansion presents many tremendous opportunities to create revenue, jobs and economic growth in Illinois.
The gaming landscape has changed significantly since I took on this issue five years ago, and I want to use these hearings to understand how those changes present new opportunities for us to put the right package together as we look to meet budget needs and provide a spark for our economy.”
Rita has stated that no vote on the proposals – which have included additional brick and mortar casinos in Northern Illinois, a larger limit on slot jackpots, and both online poker rooms and casinos in his previous bills – would be held until after a new Legislature is established in November.
The first hearing Rita scheduled will take place on Wednesday, August 22 in Chicago, while the second will be held Wednesday, October 3 at the State Capitol in Springfield.
With states like New Jersey and Mississippi already up and running with their respective legal sports betting industries, Rita was sure to include the recent repeal of a federal sports betting ban on his agenda:
“Fantasy sports, sports betting, internet gaming, are new components, forms of gaming that have come to the forefront.
As you navigate through this, when you move one component it moves three others and you gotta carefully navigate through this to put a bill together and we’ve been working diligently on that.”
Delaware has also gone live with legal sports betting, while Pennsylvania has passed a similar law and remains in the process of finalizing regulatory red tape.
Not coincidentally, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania have legalized online gambling as well, a goal Rita has held onto in Illinois for several years. Even so, despite the state Senate’s passage of a comprehensive iGaming bill last year, Rita’s colleagues in the House declined to hold a vote of their own.
Illinois is already home to 10 brick and mortar casinos, but Rita and other likeminded legislators are hoping to see that selection expand in the near future.
As state senator Dave Syverson (R-35) told the Illinois News Network in January of this year, Illinois is losing billions of dollars in gambling-related economic activity with so many neighboring states in the gaming business:
“If you go to an Indiana casino, right over the border, you’ll see 95 percent of the license plates are all Illinois plates.
Last year, a little over $1.5 billion left Illinois and went to our five surrounding states for gaming. Other states are building casinos right on the border of Illinois and they’re marketing and attracting Illinois people that go there and spend their money.”
Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Kentucky all have thriving casino industries, and according to Syverson’s estimates, they combine to outdo Illinois’ $1.3 billion in gaming revenue.