Online horse race wagering halted pending new legislation

SPRINGFIELD — Two companies that had been allowing Illinoisans to bet on horse races online have stopped, according to the state's Racing Board.

The Daily Herald reported last month that the companies' licenses were invalid because a state law legalizing online gambling on races expired Jan. 1. The companies had been taking bets, anyway.

“Xpressbet and TwinSpires both ceased and desisted,” Mickey Ezzo, an Illinois Racing Board spokesman, said. The betting stopped Jan. 18, shortly after a Daily Herald story pointed out it continued despite the licensing law expiration.

An Xpressbet spokesman confirmed the company stopped their services for Illinois customers, but declined further comment.

TwinSpires, which is owned by Churchill Downs — the company behind Arlington Park and the Kentucky Derby — also confirmed they had stopped their services in the state.

Meanwhile, new legislation in the Illinois General Assembly could allow Illinoisans to legally play the ponies online once again.

While it was legal, online horse wagering was a big business for Illinois. In 2012 alone, four licensed companies made just over $122 million in revenue, and the state collected $1.8 million in taxes.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, a Democrat from downstate Collinsville, proposed legislation to return the practice to the state.

“It doesn't make sense not to get state dollars because the old bill is sun-setting,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman's plan would return online horse wagering to the state in largely the same form as before.

Ezzo said the Illinois Racing Board supports Hoffman's proposal.

Lawmakers could debate many gambling-related matters this year, including allowing for slot machines at Arlington Park and new casinos in Lake County, Chicago and elsewhere. Hoffman's plan doesn't address those issues.

“I didn't want the bill to get bogged down in the other issues on the legality of gambling,” Hoffman said.

Racing board says stop betting on horses online

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