J.B. Pritzker, Illinois’ Democratic governor candidate, said on Friday that sports betting is something that the state should consider as a way to secure additional revenues that can prop up its ailing finances, local news outlet the Chicago Tribune reports.
Mr. Pritzker will face incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Libertarian Party candidate Kash Jackson, and Conservative Party candidate Sam McCann in the upcoming state gubernatorial election on November 6.
In an unrelated event, held yesterday, Mr. Pritzker told reporters that betting is “an important thing to consider”, pointing out that other states have legalized that type of gambling activity and “it has been a revenue generator.” The governor candidate stressed that sports betting should be regulated and that the right laws should be put in place, but that it is a topic that needs to be considered by state lawmakers.
In a historic move, the US Supreme Court struck down on May 14 a long-standing federal ban on wagering on professional and college sporting events. As many as four states, those being Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, and West Virginia, have since launched legal sports betting and Pennsylvania and Rhode Island are expected to follow suit in the coming months.
Mr. Pritzker himself has a financial stake in a gambling business. He is a partner in the Niagara Casino Group, which owns the Casino Niagara and the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort.
Mr. Pritzker has not been the only governor candidate to comment on the potential legalization of sports betting in the state. Gov.
Rauner has previously pointed out that gambling is something that takes money from people, but that he would support any form of gambling expansion as long as communities support or ask for such a move.
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The SCOTUS issued its sports betting ruling at a time when Illinois lawmakers were entering the final stages of their legislative session. In addition, legislators traditionally avoid taking on controversial matters during an election year. As a result, the legalization of sports betting was not given much consideration up until recently.
Late last month, a joint public session of the state House Sales and Other Taxes and Gaming Sub-Committees rekindled the debate over a sweeping gambling expansion across the state that would also involve the legalization of sports betting and fantasy sports. Lawmakers sought public input on the matter as they were (and still are) looking for ways to heal the state’s budget woes.
Gambling expansion has been discussed for years in the Illinois Legislature and multiple bills considering the move have been introduced but have not seen much success. The latest legislative piece on the matter was introduced last year as Senate Bill 7. The piece called for the construction of up to six new casinos across the state, the addition of table games and video gaming at horse racetracks and of slot machines at the O’Hare and Midway airports, as well as for expansion of the video gaming machines sector. The bill was approved in the Senate, but was never voted in the House.
During the August public session, the bill was lauded by a number of lawmakers as one that would secure additional revenue for the state at a time when it badly needs additional finances. However, opponents of the proposed gambling expansion cited gambling addiction concerns as well as ones over the oversaturation of the state’s gambling market and cannibalziation of existing gaming revenues.
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Another public session is set to be held in October and the legalization of sports betting and fantasy sports will be a main topic.
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