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HomeIllinois NewsIllinois looks at sports betting and more video gambling

Illinois looks at sports betting and more video gambling




SPRINGFIELD – The one activist group that consistently focuses on opposing gambling expansion – the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems (ILCAAAP) – is alarmed at the state lawmakers' focus to expand gambling even more this legislative session. 

Sports betting is at the top of the agenda, with more video gambling up next, ILCAAAP says in a recent newsletter to supporters.

Gambling industry pushes to legalize sports betting

Despite all the promised budget boost sports betting will bring, a state with sports betting is disappointed with its first year of revenue.

In Rhode Island, a study estimated sports betting would only bring in $2.7 million for the state by the end of the current fiscal year in July. That's significantly lower than initial state estimates of $23.5 million, or Governor Gina Raimondo's recently scaled-back projection of $11.5 million. 

And while the official focus is on professional sports league betting, in a recent Illinois House hearing on HB 1260 betting advocates wanted to include college sports.

University of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman, who was representing 12 of Illinois' 13 Division I universities, said they oppose sports betting on collegiate sports. The colleges want no part of sports betting, fearing that it will put undue pressure on athletes.

"Would there be additional costs" associated with sports betting" Whitman asked. "Yes. Do we want money for that? No. We felt it didn't make sense to be asking for money for something we oppose."

HB 1260's Amendment 2 would prohibit sports betting on collegiate events involving Illinois teams in Illinois. But Whitman says that's not enough. "What we need to avoid is for every athlete who drops a pass or misses a free throw, for everyone in the stadium to look at each other and wonder if he did that on purpose," Whitman said. "That's when the integrity of the game is lost. … The in-state betting (prohibition) really does not solve any of our problems fundamentally."

"It's the corruption aspect," he said. "The feeling is that college kids who are amateurs, making no money, may be more tempted to cheat if there's a big payoff. It's just better to do our best to keep that at bay." Aside from no betting on in-state teams, the athletic directors want additional safeguards such as banning people under age 21 from betting, prohibiting in-game wagering and disallowing sports gambling advertisements on campus, ILCAAAP reported.

Most video gambling machines in the nation, still Illinois wants more 

During a recent hearing on video gambling expansion and taxation, as well as sweepstakes machines, ILCAAAP testified in opposition to doubling the maximum bet from $2 to $4. Such a hike would increase the jackpot, along with adding the number of machines to six, and legalizing progressive jackpots of $10,000. 

ILCAAAP reported, "A young woman, who is struggling with gambling addiction, [said] the $4 bet is like a high-limit room at a casino. She lost $800 in one hour on the video gambling machines. Problem gamblers will bet the maximum and could lose everything."

The number of machines and licensed establishments increases every month. Illinois has more video gambling machines than any other state, ILCAAAP reports.   

"The average net is $100,000 per machine per year.  A handful of terminal operators own most of the video gambling machines, and four of these companies are fully or partially owned by casino companies," they write.

ILCAAAP urges Illinois citizens concerned about the plans lawmakers are considering to call their state senator to vote no on HB 3661. Also to call state representatives to oppose sports gambling in HB 1260. 

They also ask people to contact Governor Pritzker, saying gambling is an unstable source of revenue that costs $3 to $7 for every $1 of revenue it brings in.


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