Hearings on expanding gambling hope to build consensus, work in sports betting

A state lawmaker pushing for more gambling to help fill the state’s coffers said there’s going to need to be a lot of give-and-take from those within the industry.

State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, is set to take another shot at getting his gambling expansion bill through the legislature. The last effort to expand gambling before the end of spring session failed to muster enough support.

Rita has hearings scheduled Aug. 22 in Chicago and Oct. 3 in Springfield ahead of the fall veto session.

Among his ideas are to allow more gambling positions with higher jackpots, new casinos in places like Rockford and Danville among other locations, and gambling terminals at horse racing tracks. Rita also wants to study additional gambling options in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year allowing all U.S. states to legalize sports betting.

“Fantasy sports, sports betting, internet gaming, are new components, forms of gaming that have come to the forefront,” Rita said.

The entire package could bring in $700 million to state coffers annually, he said.

Pew Charitable Trusts’ Mary Murphy said policy makers shouldn’t bank on such increased revenue being a steady stream.

“States should consider that these gains may be short-lived in large part because of increased competition, and be cautious of directing this revenue toward ongoing expenditures,” Murphy said.

Regardless, Rita said it’s a difficult process of balancing all the interests.

“As you navigate through this, when you move one component it moves three others and you gotta carefully navigate through this to put a bill together and we’ve been working diligently on that,” Rita said.

Some concerns expected to be raised include over-saturation and cannibalization of existing gambling operations.

Rita said he hopes the scheduled hearings will build a strong enough consensus on the issue for a possible vote during the fall veto session, which is in November after the midterm election.