Survey lawmakers mixed on sports gambling in illinois gas news today


On that point — and many others surrounding the complex and competitive effort to bring Las Vegas-style sports betting to Illinois — legislators do not stand in agreement, The News-Gazette found in surveying 55 representatives and senators last week.

But unlike with the state’s 793-day budget impasse, the varying opinions cross party lines when it comes to how Illinois ought to respond to this month’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which struck down as unconstitutional the 1992 federal law that prohibited every state but one — exempt Nevada — from authorizing sports gambling.

Twenty-one of the 55 lawmakers said they support, or are leaning toward supporting legalization in some form. Eleven, including retiring Catlin Rep. Chad Hays, are Republicans. Among the 10 Democrats: Champaign Sen. Scott Bennett, who believes the potential revenue boost makes it worth legalizing "behavior that many sports fans already enjoy."

Four Republicans and two Democrats are for it — so long as certain conditions are met. For Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, those include "appropriate safeguards to protect the citizenry from being ‘taken,’" a "fair split" of proceeds and revenue dedicated to the state’s backlog of bills, pension debt and/or underfunded programs.

Ten Republicans and one Chicago Democrat are against, or leaning heavily toward not supporting Illinois joining the flurry of states expected to jump at the chance to pass bills that could boost tax revenue and tourism. Most expressed reservations about what they view as overinflated economic advantages or the crippling social impact.

The passionate opposition includes Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, who believes the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision will only "open up more avenues for what is essentially a tax on addiction and desperation. The way we gather revenue says something about us as a society, and tying our bottom line to the hope that people lose their savings to gambling is just as ethically dubious as, for instance, mandating that police issue a certain number of citations every month to meet a quota."

What would the tax rate be? What protections would be in place for consumers? Would the same rules apply for gambling on college games as pro ones? Would wagering be offered online? In casinos? At racetracks? On the premises of any gas station, bar, fraternal hall or slot-machine parlor that’s already licensed to allow gaming?

On that topic, Lang offered a hint of what he envisions, saying: "It’s not my intention to turn every bar and every restaurant into a booking joint. However, with the modernization of apps, there’s the possibility of having small, little kiosks; it’s possible that every establishment where there’s gaming could have the ability to have people gambling within their premises, even though every one wouldn’t have licenses. They might be sublicenses."

Here are the other arguments and counter-arguments we heard most frequently from legislators. PROPONENTS: Tax revenue from $7 billion a year’s worth of legal betting in Illinois would pay for a whole lot of roadwork, bridge upgrades, overdue bills and school construction projects.

That estimate comes from Rockford Democrat Steve Stadelman, who chairs the Senate Gaming Committee. It would lead to somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million a year in tax revenue, Lang projects, adding that it won’t be the "cash cow" some believe but will provide an economic boost.

"In the past, I have not been a supporter of gaming expansions. Today, I see that our roads and bridges are in terrible shape and we are in dire need of funding for a capital bill," he says. "If the General Assembly does move forward on sports betting, I would like to see the revenues dedicated to roadwork and placed in the transportation lock box, so that we can make some headway on repairing our crumbling infrastructure." OPPONENTS: Money wagered on Cubs-White Sox is money not being spent in restaurants or at the theater.

Rep. Mike Batinick, R-Plainfield, expects to be in the "super-duper minority" in his stance, which is this: "Gambling only raises money when you bring in people from outside your little bubble. It works for Las Vegas because you have people coming from all over. But if all states pass this, it will be a net zero for everyone. And the social cost will probably be a loss for us.

"We don’t tend to do things efficiently in Illinois. If we did, the two places you’d have (gaming machines) are O’Hare Airport and downtown Chicago, where people from out-of-state can spend cash and leave. Yet those are two places we don’t have it.

"When people spend money on gambling, that’s money they’re not spending (elsewhere in town). It’s just a shiny object that we’re going to chase instead of dealing with the pension crisis, property tax relief, all the other stuff. I just kind of shrug my shoulders."

"You can already go down the street from your house and find a place to play slot machines, and those have proven to be great revenue producers for the state and for municipalities," says Sen. Steven Landek, D-Bridgeview. "You can also find a place online to make bets, but that money often goes overseas."

Says Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, who cast one of the 19 "yes" votes: "This ruling presents an opportunity for Illinois to regulate a billion-dollar industry illegally operating in our state since its creation." OPPONENTS: Enough already with gambling.

"Illinois already has the lottery, horse betting, riverboat casinos and video gaming in legion halls, fraternal organizations, liquor stores and in gas stations and truck stops. There is a gambling addiction crisis, and the cost to society is proving to be high."

"I oppose sports betting because it endangers the integrity of the games and adds undue pressure onto the players in each sport," Bellock says. "Furthermore, sports betting is an enticement to get young people involved in gambling from an early age, which is not a policyour state should encourage." PROPONENTS: All signs points to Pennsylvania passing a sports betting law, with Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey and West Virginia close behind and many more states expected to follow. So why not Illinois?

"Even the lottery preys on the poor — 57 percent of our lottery tickets are sold in the poorest areas of the state. That’s problematic," he says. "It’s ironic: Within our past legislation for gambling, they’ve included money for gambling addiction. That’s like going to the bar and ordering a drink, then getting counseling for drinking too much at the bar.