Following a frantic Friday of legislative maneuvering over an Illinois sports betting bill, state lawmakers will now take an additional two days to finalize the state’s sports betting future.
Friday was scheduled to be the Illinois Legislature’s final day of the session. However, several unresolved issues forced lawmakers to extend their work through the weekend. This includes the potential legalization of recreational marijuana use, and adding protections for women’s reproductive rights.
And while they scramble to amend and revise bills pertaining to those pressing societal issues, the fate of Illinois sports betting in the Prairie State will also be decided.
The whirlwind session on Friday featured several unexpected twists, as lawmakers competed to shape the pending Illinois sports betting bill to their liking. Initially, Senate Bill 516 and its framework to expand casino gaming in Chicago was viewed as the optimal vehicle for making sportsbooks legal.
The status quo suddenly changed midway through the day, when state senator Terry Link (D-30) – who also serves as assistant majority leader – was added as the new sponsor of Senate Bill 690. That legislation – originally drafted to revise tax rates related to Illinois’ Invest in Kids Act – was quickly amended to include a long lineup of gambling expansion measures.
In addition to calling for the construction of a major casino resort complex in the Chicagoland area, SB-690’s gambling amendments also run the gamut for sports betting integration.
If approved over the weekend, SB-690 would allow Illinois’ casinos, horseracing tracks, and pro sports venues to operate brick and mortar sportsbooks. Additionally, approximately 2,500 locations where Illinois Lottery tickets are sold would be permitted to install sports betting kiosks.
The bill also allows online / mobile wagering, but bettors would be required to register their sportsbook accounts through a physical location for the first 18 months after launch.
After the Senate Appropriations Committee spent a mere five minutes examining the multitude of new gambling provisions, SB-690’s amendments were approved by that body.
The House Executive Committee then conducted their own hearing, during which gambling industry heavyweights like Boyd Gaming, Penn National Gaming, and the Illinois Casino Association (ICA) all voiced various points of opposition to the amendment.
Among the chief complaints was the so-called “penalty box,” or a probationary period of 18 months during which time daily fantasy sports (DFS) operators DraftKings and FanDuel wouldn’t be permitted to operate traditional sportsbooks. These companies previously offered DFS services within Illinois despite the state’s lack of legal clarity on the industry, drawing the ire of many lawmakers.
Ultimately, the Committee voted 8-5 to recommend the amendment’s passage, setting SB-690 up for a full floor vote this weekend.
During a press conference related to labor organization held on May 28, state senator Link told members of the local media that he expects an Illinois sports betting bill to reach the Governor’s desk one way or another:
“The point is we’re consolidating everything, we’re putting it in one bill, and this is a request of all four caucuses of actually wanting one bill.
We’re dealing with all things in one bill so legislators have to take one vote on this. I look forward to making it happen this week and [getting the] governor to sign in the very near future.”
For his part, state senator Dave Syverson (R-35) provided a more urgent warning to colleagues, calling on the Legislature to act quickly before regional competition boxes Illinois out of the statewide sports betting gold rush:
“We are running out of time for the state of Illinois. For some of us in locations like Rockford and Danville, we don’t have another year. States will have built and approved massive casinos and will be way ahead of us and taking even more out of Illinois.”
If we don’t pass something, we’re all in the penalty box. Over the years, we’ve dealt with much more complicated issues and come to a conclusion.
The bottom line is, we have to do this.”