Legal sports betting in Illinois on the agenda as lawmakers return to Springfield

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During Governor J.B. Pritzker’s budget address, he raised sports betting as a possible revenue generator to help fix the state’s financial woes.

After the United States Supreme Court decision that allowed sports betting outside of Nevada, the race is on to determine which state in the Midwest will legalize it first.

Some estimates suggest that allowing betting would generate 2,500 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.

“Everybody wants a piece of the action: casinos, racetracks, retail establishments… they all want to offer sports betting,” said Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-34th District), chair of the Illinois Senate Gaming Committee.

As the Illinois General Assembly reconvenes this week, sports betting will be on lawmakers’ agendas.

“I am calling on the legislature to take this up, immediately,” Pritzker said.

Stadelman says Illinois is trying to capitalize in what is already happening, albeit illegally, in the state.

“I think it’s positive,” he said. “It’ll bring in more revenue for the state. It’s a multibillion dollar industry, but it’s illegal and it’s in the black market.”

“If we do it this year and become the first state in the Midwest to move on this initiative, we can realize more than $200 million from sports betting fees and taxes in 2020,” Pritzker said.

Since January 2018, gamblers in Rockford have spent more than $450 million on video gaming.

Stadelman said the new bill aims to protect consumer’s wallets.

“I think it’s an opportunity to regulate and offer consumer protections for people, and at the same time, bring in some much needed revenue to the state,” he said.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara says his office is open to ideas to bring in revenue and reduce burden on taxpayers, saying this is a growing industry and Rockford will “be part of this discussion as the legislation moves forward.”

With two out of every one hundred adults developing an addiction to gambling, the Illinois Council on Problem Gaming says steps need to be taken to ensure free help is available.

Bill Johnson, the councils administrator, said, “And by that, we have to do self-awareness, public education, to make sure the public knows that help is available and that they can get it without having to jump through a whole bunch of hoops and put themselves in another financial bind.”

Lawmakers return to Springfield Tuesday morning.

A new website launched Monday called weknowthefeeling.org, aimed at helping those dealing with a gambling addiction.

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