Racing board says stop betting on horses online

SPRINGFIELD — Two companies offering online wagering for Illinois horse racing gamblers at tracks like Arlington Park have continued accepting bets despite warnings from the Illinois Racing Board to stop.

The law allowing gambling on horses online, known as advanced deposit wagering, expired after the Illinois General Assembly failed to renew it. So the Racing Board declined to renew licenses for the four firms involved.

But, according to Illinois Racing Board Project Manager Micky Ezzo, Xpressbet and TwinSpires, two of the four formerly licensed companies for online horse race wagering in the state, are still allowing their Illinois users to place bets on horse races.

TwinSpires is owned by Churchill Downs, a large horse racing company that also owns Arlington Park Racetrack and the Kentucky Derby.

A spokeswoman for Churchill Downs declined to comment.

A representative from Xpressbet was not immediately available for comment.

In the time it was licensed, online horse wagering was a big business in the state. According to preliminary numbers from the Racing Board’s forthcoming annual report released to the Daily Herald, the four licensed companies made just over $122 million in revenue in 2012. The report also stated that the state made $1.8 million in taxes from that amount.

In December, the Racing Board sent a letter to the four companies preparing them for the possibility that they would have to discontinue service for their Illinois customers should the legislation fail to be renewed before the end of the session Jan. 9.

The Racing Board has posted a notice on its website that online gambling on horse racing in the state is now “prohibited.”

Anita Bedell, the director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems, called on Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to shut down the illegal operations.

“We need to make sure that gambling in the state is strictly regulated,” Bedell said.

The Racing Board reported TwinSpires’ and Xpressbet’s actions to the attorney general’s office, Ezzo said.

The attorney general’s office has yet to take any legal action on the matter.

“We are talking with the Racing Board and discussing the state’s options,” Maura Possley, the press secretary for the attorney general’s office, said.

Lawmakers return to Springfield for their annual spring session in several weeks, and they could once again legalize online horse betting for Illinoisans if they chose to do so.

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