Ill. House Subcommittees Hold Joint Hearing on Gaming Issues

One of the issues discussed by witnesses and panelists was the possibility of legalized sports betting in Illinois. This is a new industry for which the door was opened earlier in 2018 by a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Prior to the May 2018 decision in “Murphy v. NCAA,” most states were forbidden by federal law from allowing persons and businesses to open and operate bookmaking activities when the activities being bet on were sports contests and activities.

Until this year, people who wanted to place legal bets on single teams and games had to go to Nevada, which was exempted from the federal prohibition. The “Murphy” decision, however, struck down this ban and implicitly allowed the other 49 states to set up regulated sports-betting parlors and phone apps. Several states, such as New Jersey, responded to the Supreme Court decision by taking immediate action to legalize sports betting within their state lines. Federal law continues to prohibit sports bets that cross state lines, and an Illinois resident cannot legally place a sports bet in New Jersey. New Jersey sports betting operators are required, by law, to ask a prospective bettor to share his or her phone’s geo-location, and if the phone sends a “beep” that shows it is out of state the operator is not legally allowed to take the bet. Sports betting, if it is to be done legally within Illinois, will require the General Assembly to enact an Illinois sports betting law.

The Illinois House held a joint-panel hearing this week to examine questions relating to Illinois gaming in general, including what an Illinois sports betting law could look like. One outline discussed by witnesses before the hearing was the creation of a limited number of licenses for sports-betting host sites. For reasons of security and regulatory consistency, these licenses could be awarded to owners of existing large-scale gaming locations and destinations, such as casino riverboats and horse racetracks. The sports betting license-holders could then contract with Internet firms to create licensed sports-betting phone apps for legal wagering on sports contests from a customer’s smartphone.

Many concerns were raised at the Illinois House hearing, which was held on Wednesday, Oct. 17. Witnesses representing Illinois major-league sports and associations of major-league athletes expressed concerns about the integrity of some of America’s most-widely-admired sports, and the personal safety and privacy of the athletes who play them. Advocates voiced concerns about gambling addiction and underage gaming. The debate is expected to continue.

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