Illinois Senate Panel Takes Up Internet Sports Betting

Apr 4, 2018

March Madness fans in Illinois could not legally bet on Monday’s championship game. But that could change for next year’s tournament under a few proposals at the statehouse.

Credit "SPORTS BETS" BY FLICKR USER THOMAS SCHLOSSER / (CC x 2.0)

Right now, the only way to legally wager on a big game is to hop on a plane to Vegas.

But a U.S. Supreme Court decision expected this month could open the door to states legalizing sports betting—both in-person and online.

An industry study says earnings could total 681 million dollars—yielding just tens of millions in tax revenue.

State Sen. Bill Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat, says Illinois likely wouldn’t allow online betting unless it could make money for the state.

“I’m just wondering if there’s a way to do that and still present a competitive gaming product to people who are enjoying it now offshore," he said. "It seems like we still have a pretty steep hill to climb.”

Cunningham suggested the challenges to regulating the industry—and attracting betters away from the black market—might not be worth the trouble.

Industry officials say taxes should be kept low. If payouts aren’t good enough, they say customers could continue using overseas gambling sites like they do now.

One proposal allows the betting at existing casinos and online platforms, while another would make it available at horse race tracks.