Senate revives measure to allow limited sports betting on in-state colleges

SPRINGFIELD - A state Senate committee revived a gambling bill Wednesday that would allow for limited betting on in-state college sports teams, sending it to the full Senate for consideration.

A similar measure passed the House on the final day of the May legislative session, but the Senate did not bring it for a vote at the time.

The unanimous approval from the Senate Executive Committee came just one day before the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the year, and it was unclear if it would receive a vote in both chambers. Sen. Bill Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat and the bill's sponsor, told the committee Wednesday that he is working with members of the House "to achieve some level of agreement" on the bill.

If Senate Amendment 2 to House Bill 3136 passes both the House and Senate, it would become law once signed by the governor. On that date, a business with a sports betting license would legally be allowed to take a bet on an Illinois college team, provided the bet is made at a betting facility, rather than online.

Only "Tier 1" wagers would be accepted on in-state teams, meaning it is "determined solely by the final score or final outcome" of a sporting event, and it must have been filed before the start of the game. No bets would be allowed on an individual's performance in an in-state game.

For now, in-state collegiate betting would be a pilot program set for repeal on July 1, 2023, unless the General Assembly extends it.

The bill also adds fire protection districts to the list of entities that can receive a charitable raffle license, and WinTrust Arena, where the WNBA champion Chicago Sky play their home games, would be eligible to apply for a sports betting license, just like the state's other pro sports facilities.

The bill would cap an annual fee that non-home rule municipalities can charge on video gaming terminals at $250, up from $25.

The bill would prohibit municipalities from taxing video gambling machines or bets placed on the machines, an action commonly referred to as a "push tax."

The bill allows for municipalities that had enacted such a tax as of Nov. 1 to continue to charge it, but they would be prohibited from increasing or expanding it, according to the legislation.

When the bill was considered in May, there were fewer than five municipalities that had levied such a tax, but since that date, "somewhere around the neighborhood of 10 municipalities" have enacted push taxes, Cunningham said.

"It should be pointed out that there is pending litigation on this matter right now. And it is unclear whether or not the courts are going to allow these municipalities to impose that tax," Cunningham said.

Cunningham said the bill would also allow for online registration for sports gambling applications beginning March 5, 2022. The initial sports gambling legalization bill required that accounts be created at a gambling facility, although the requirement was temporarily halted during the pandemic.

"There was concern that's been brought up that the date for allowing that online registration to occur is nebulous in the current statute and could push online registration well into the spring and the summer," Cunningham said. "That would potentially cost the state millions of dollars in revenue."

The bill also allows fraternal organizations, such as VFW posts and American Legions, to apply for gambling machine licenses, even if the municipality in which they reside has a local ban on them. Those provisions would not apply, however, to such facilities in Chicago and Cook County.

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