The Illinois General Assembly approved bills related to sports wagering and casino gaming in its recently completed session, but a third piece of legislation, focused on responsible gambling, did not achieve its original sponsors’ goals.
The state legislature extended the status quo regarding sports betting on in-state colleges and universities by continuing to allow only pre-game, in-person wagers for the spread, moneyline, and totals for those contests. The casino-related bill, which allows for those with a felony conviction to apply for non-gaming positions at casinos, passed while Bally’s application for its proposed $1.7 billion casino in downtown Chicago continues to be reviewed by the Illinois Gaming Board.
But while those measures succeeded, a second sports wagering-related bill, SB 1508, was gutted with the language replaced late in the legislative session.
The version of SB 1508 that passed included an amendment by the House regarding the Illinois Lottery — which completely replaced responsible gambling text that had unanimously passed through the Senate. The Senate did concur on the language for the lottery amendment, but the codification of responsible gambling language appears out for now unless inserted as an amendment during the veto session in late October or as a new bill at the start of next year’s General Assembly.
Overwhelming Senate support
By requiring sports wagering apps to display a pop-up message with resources for gambling addiction assistance, we can help individuals who may be struggling with problem gambling access the help they need.
— Senator Bill Cunningham (@SenCunningham) March 7, 2023
The original version of SB 1508 filed by state Sen. Bill Cunningham called for a pop-up ad directing customers to a website with resources for gambling addiction assistance to appear after every 10 wagers made on a licensed online platform. That passed out of the Health and Human Services Committee unanimously.
In March, Cunningham filed an amendment to the bill changing the frequency of the pop-up ads, requiring a licensed online operator to “at least once every hour, display a message advising the individual of the time elapsed since logging on, advising the individual of the amount of money wagered since logging on, and including hyperlinks to websites and telephone numbers that offer gambling addiction assistance.”
It again received unanimous approval from the Health and Human Services Committee and had bipartisan support in the Senate, where it sailed through 54-0. State Rep. and Gaming Chairperson Daniel Didech signed on as chief sponsor to shepherd the bill through the lower chamber, where it passed in his committee by a 10-1 vote for second reading on April 27.
It was added to the legislative calendar May 10 and had a deadline for a third reading extended to May 19 two days later. At some point between May 12 and May 19, though, Rep. Lisa Hernandez submitted an amendment gutting the responsible gambling language in favor of a change to the Illinois Lottery law calling for a series of scratch-off games to be created for various special causes.
Mattie Hunter replaced Cunningham as chief sponsor in the Senate, and the new version of SB 1508 passed through the House Gaming Committee by a 10-3 vote May 19. Hernandez’s amendment was adopted in the House before the bill passed 78-30 later that day. The Senate Executive Committee voted in favor of adopting the amendment May 24 by a 7-4 margin, with the full body voting in concurrence 35-18.
Still time for RG to be addressed
Since this is the first year of the two-year General Assembly, there remains all of 2024 for Illinois lawmakers to make a second effort to codify responsible gambling language. Backers could feel optimistic about a refiled bill’s chances given the bipartisan support for Cunningham’s original language in the Senate.
Illinois is one of the top sports wagering handle generators in the nation. The state has been vying with New Jersey for the No. 2 spot on a monthly basis.
The state committed $10 million to problem gambling in fiscal year 2023, with a portion centered around its “Are You Really Winning?” ad campaign that directs those who think they may have problems to access the state’s helplines (1-800-GAMBLER, or text “GAMB” to 833234). Gov. JB Pritzker’s recently approved budget for fiscal year 2024 has again appropriated $10 million to problem gambling.
Last June, the Illinois Department of Public Health released a report estimating 3.8% of adult residents may have behavioral patterns and tendencies that lead to problem gambling. The study estimated that nearly 383,000 adults in the state may have a gambling problem, with nearly double that amount potentially at risk to develop a problem.