If everything goes as smoothly as possible, and there are no unexpected hiccups along the way, legal sports gambling will be in the state of Illinois by the next Super Bowl. That’s according to Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee Chairman Mike Zalewksi, who late last month filed four separate amendments to House Bill 3308 to jumpstart the Land of Lincoln’s movement on sports betting.
“Enacted and up and running, I’ve set an ambitious goal for the Super Bowl, but I can’t say for sure that will happen,” Rep. Zalewski told The Sports Bank in an exclusive interview on Monday.
“It’s all up to the regulators, it’s up to the Governor when he signs the bill. There are many hurdles left to jump on that, but I’m hopeful and the sooner the better.”
Both online, at sites like www.liveesportsbetting.com and at bricks & mortar casinos, gaming is a massively booming industry, with sports and esports wagering the next markets that are set for expansion. Seven states (Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) have legal sports gambling industries regulated by state governments, with New Mexico and Arkansas up next.
Zalewski, who represents the 23rd district of Illinois, is working with state Rep. Bob Rita to lead House discussions on traditional gaming expansion. The beginning of discussions coincided with March Madness, one of the biggest and most lucrative sports wagering events on the calendar.
Hopes are high that the Illinois state legislature will bring HB 3308 up for a vote next month.
“May is the end of the timeline- that’s when we have to get a budget on the governor’s desk,” he said.
Illinois will model their legalized sport betting legislation on one of four models, which are conveyed in the bill’s amendments:
1. Classical New Jersey Model, 2. Mississippi Model, 3. Professional Sports League Proposals 4. Lottery Oversight.
Right now, the New Jersey plan could be the early front-runner, and that’s certainly understandable, given how their legal sports gambling industry exploded in growth during the month that football season began.
“I think New Jersey makes a strong case,” Zalewski said.
“They’ve set the tax rate appropriately to derive a good amount of revenue, without driving down the market. They have a healthy mix of bricks and mortar, along with mobile platforms.”
Zalewski’s district includes one of the state’s professional sports franchises, Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire, who play their home games in suburban Bridgeview.
In a gerrymandering quirk, Seat Geek Stadium (formerly Toyota Park) and the parking lots to the south, west and east lie in district 23, while the north parking lot does not.
How might legal sports gambling affect sports in general?
“We’re going to try and make sure it doesn’t change sports a lot, I think there’s real integrity questions about (making sure) the productitself is protected,” Zalewski answered.
“Sports is an entertainment device, and in terms of people interacting with it, paying attention to it, it’ll be a new day, as more states have sports betting go live, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”
The Las Vegas Golden Knights were the first American sports franchise to officially partner with a sports book- might we see more go this route?
“I think that’s a real possibility,” Zalewski answered.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.Follow paulmbanks