Illinois Legislator Holds Sports Betting Hearing

This week, Illinois state Rep. Bob Rita (l.) will hold a hearing in Chicago on sports betting and other gambling expansion issues, in anticipation of the 2019 legislative session. "The gaming landscape has changed significantly since I took on this issue five years ago," Rita said. A second hearing is planned for October in Springfield.

Illinois state Rep. Bob Rita will hold the first of two hearings on sports betting before the Gaming and Sales and Other Taxes House subcommittees on August 29 in Chicago. Rita said the goal of the hearings is to bring together stakeholders and lawmakers to draw up sports betting legislation for the 2019 session.

Rita said, “As I have said from the beginning in working on this issue, gaming expansion presents many tremendous opportunities to create revenue, jobs and economic growth in Illinois. The gaming landscape has changed significantly since I took on this issue five years ago, and I want to use these hearings to understand how those changes present new opportunities for us to put the right package together as we look to meet budget needs and provide a spark for our economy.”

Rita will outline his proposed measure, SB 7, which was introduced in the last legislation session, and would create a Chicago Gaming Authority, amend the Illinois Lottery law and establish an internet gaming board. Rita has proposed amending the bill to lay the foundation for sports betting.

Speakers, besides Rita, will include members of the State Legislature’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability; officials from the cities of Chicago, Rockford Waukegan and Danville and the South Suburbs; representatives from Fairmount, Hawthorne and Arlington horse racetracks seeking slots and table games; companies seeking to legalize sweepstakes machines; video gaming organizations; and opponents of SB 7.

Also among those attending the hearing will be Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. Rockford is in a race with Beloit, Wisconsin to build a casino just across the Wisconsin state line. “We’re seeing Ho Chunk Casino wanting to build a $450 million hotel complex just 15-20 minutes from us.

My hope is that the legislature will have the courage to move this legislation forward once again, expand gaming and bring in some much needed revenue to the City of Rockford,” McNamara said.

State Senator Dave Syverson who represents Rockford said he plans to emphasize the importance of moving quickly. “That means we lose a whole year on construction, and that becomes a real problem. I’m hoping that those attending the hearing are going to stress the fact that we don’t have time to play games with this.” He added, “A casino could bring millions of dollars a year in revenue to the city and to the county, which takes pressure off of property taxpayers. It could add a couple hundred of good paying jobs.”

A second hearing will be held in Springfield in October, and will address sports betting, online gaming, fantasy sports.

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