US Supreme Court ruling means Illinois could legalize sports betting
A decisive opinion issued by the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a 1992 ban on sports gambling, putting the ball in Springfield’s court.
States will be entrusted with setting their own laws involving sports gambling, following a May 14 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The high court, voting 6-3 on an opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito, reversed a decadeslong federal law prohibiting states from chartering commercial intuitions devoted to wagering on sports games.
Since 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, has placed a nationwide ban on sports betting. Four states – Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana – were exempt from the law, having previously passed laws allowing sports gambling.
The product of a six-year court battle originating by New Jersey, the federal repeal of PASPA will ripple through statehouses across the country, including Illinois, as lawmakers grapple over whether to tap into a potentially lucrative industry. In April, Illinois’ Senate Gaming Committee held a hearing on the prospect of legal sports betting, inviting testimony from gaming professionals, sports industry heavyweights and engaged residents alike.
Moreover, Illinois lawmakers have filed a number of proposals in the General Assembly that could, in differing capacities, deliver legal sports betting to the Land of Lincoln. According to Legal Sports Report, which tracks states’ sports gambling bills, there are currently five such proposals in the Illinois House and Senate.
Many Illinoisans have elected not to wait for legalization. In spite of the PASPA ban, the American Gaming Association estimates $150 billion in illegally gambled monies are circulated each year, “through bookies, on illegal offshore websites, or through sports pools like popular March Madness basketball bracket pools.”
This multibillion-dollar black market served as one lawmaker’s impetus for filing one of Illinois’ five sports betting bills. State Sen. Napoleon Harris III, D-Harvey, filed Senate Bill 3432 in February, which would legalize sports gambling at licensed gaming facilities and over the internet through interactive sports wagering platforms.
However, according to the Chicago Tribune, state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and state Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, have both expressed doubt about passing a sports betting proposal before the General Assembly is set to adjourn May 31. Gov. Bruce Rauner has signaled neither strong support nor strong opposition on the issue.
While state lawmakers have been empowered to establish a lawful sports gambling market in Illinois – and generate new tax revenue in the process – one perhaps shouldn’t bet on it too soon.