Autumn brings with it playoff baseball, regular season football, and the start of basketball and hockey. And don’t forget college sports, especially football. With such an abundance of sports comes the enticing opportunities to partake in sports betting. However, states that actually allow legal sports betting are few and far between. Luckily for Illinoisans, legal sports betting is a dream that is no longer a distant dream. As many know, the Legislature passed a bill that Governor Pritzker signed into law permitting a massive expansion of legal gambling, including sports betting.
SB690 legalizing sports wagering (and expanding previously permitted gambling) for casinos, racetracks, and sports venues goes into effect, assuming appropriate rules are promulgated by the Illinois Gaming Board. But when exactly the Gaming Board makes such rules is the big unknown. If things proceed similar to video gaming a few years back, it could take years! Advocates are clearly pushing for faster action by the Gaming Board because the State needs the new revenue – in fact, some go-forward revenue assumptions are already baked into the current fiscal budget. Given that reality despite what we all know about how quickly the government works in this state, it appears the rule-making process won’t take too long. Once permitted, the license provides brick-and-mortar establishments an 18-month head start over the online-only sports betting moguls like DraftKings and FanDuel. During this time, interested sports fans in Illinois will need to register in person at a nearby casino or another authorized venue within the confines of the State lines.
After registering, residents can place their bets at the casino and racetrack, or online via an app associated with the establishment. However, for those establishments looking to partner with companies to enact in-house sportsbooks, the cost of this opportunity is not cheap. It is estimated that a sports betting license will cost approximately $10 million, depending on the expected revenue that sports betting will bring in. After the waiting period, online operating sites will fight for the three total online-only sports betting licenses that the state will issue – for a steep price of $20 million each.
As expected, there is a line dividing those in favor and those opposed to the new sports betting law signed by Pritzker. Casinos, racetracks, bookmakers, and sports fanatics alike are, for the most part, overjoyed by the news. The exception being Arlington Racetrack which surprisingly did not support or oppose the new legislation, but has recently announced it will not partake in the new lines of business afforded (including the opportunity of a “Racino”) and curiously said because of the new law may close entirely.
Many think this is posturing by Arlington for some type of amendment or carve-out to the new legislation. I suppose we’ll soon see. Of course, many opponents argue that the new gaming positions, including the sports wagering, is only causing some cannibalizing and will not add anywhere near to the State coffers as predicted. These opponents also point to some traditional problems with gambling including adding to the problems for those with addictive personalities or prior gambling problems. Overall, a prediction of high revenue value is associated with the new law coming into action, with a 15% tax to operators. Again, we’ll see soon enough if these revenue projections hold true.
In due time, Illinois will join the 13 other states that currently have legal, regulated sports betting. How soon, many are asking? Like most changes to take place in the State, savvy Illinoisans are setting their expectations low that they will be able to place legal bets in the first quarter of 2020.