The improbable strategy of hitching sports betting to a massive gaming expansion and capital bill appears to be the golden ticket in Illinois where the House on Saturday approved SB 690, which would also legalize sports betting. With little discussion before the vote, and an air of confidence from key sponsor Bob Rita (D-District 28), the House overwhelmingly passed the bill, 87-27.
A supermajority was required after the General Assembly on Friday announced that it would extend its session through Sunday. The bill will now head back to the Senate, which is set to convene at 3 p.m. local time, and is on the agenda for Sunday. Should the Senate approve it, it will go to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk and Illinois would become the 12th state outside of Nevada to legalize in the last 18 months. There’s likely no question Pritzker will sign, as he’s been pushing for sports betting as a way help finance myriad capital projects.
The language in the bill that passed on Saturday is largely unchanged from Amendment 2, which was added to the bill Friday. On Saturday, Rita filed the 800-page Amendment 3, which on first look didn’t appear to have any major changes to the sports betting section.
Online operators will have to wait 18 months
A key point that will not be well received by national online operators is a de facto “penalty box” that gives local existing and new sportsbook venues an 18-month head start over online-only operators.
During those first 18 months, only online sportsbooks tethered to physical sportsbooks — at casinos, racetracks or professional sports stadiums — will be allowed to operate. And they can only do so under the brand of the physical sportsbook.
Latest report out of Springfield is that Governor Pritzker and House and Senate leaders are going to do “whatever it takes” to get SB 690 through the General Assembly by tomorrow. Finish line is close for legalized sports betting in Illinois.
— Sam Panayotovich (@spshoot) June 1, 2019
For example, Caesars contracts with DraftKings to run some of its sportsbooks, so DrafKings can immediately run the online Caesars sportsbook in Illinois under the Caesars, not DraftKings, brand. According to the bill, 18 months after the first sports betting license is issued, three “master online licenses” will be awarded, at a cost of $20 million each, to stand-alone mobile and online sportsbooks. Translation? Companies like DraftKings and FanDuel will have to wait a year-and-a-half before they can operate under their own banner.
Sports betting language unchanged
Other key points in the bill include a 15 percent tax, a mandate to use “official league data,” and a ban on betting on Illinois college teams, no matter where they are playing. The bill also requires in-person registration for mobile apps for the first 18 months.
In May, Tennessee became the first state to require the purchase of official league data, and that decision created the opportunity for Illinois lawmakers to throw the professional sports league a bone and require it as well. There is no integrity fee in the bill.
On Saturday, SB 690 didn’t come up during the early House floor meeting, which was followed by a couple of hours of committee meetings and caucuses. When lawmakers returned to the floor, Rita had filed Amendment 3, and it was clear a deal had been cut on the capital bill, as questions to Rita were perfunctory at best.
Rita spent a few minutes thanking all involved, including Representative Mike Zalewski (D-District 23), who has been tirelessly working on a sports betting deal. There was even applause after the bill was passed, and Rita congratulated his peers on creating new jobs in Illinois.