The Illinois Senate has voted in favour of a gambling reform bill that would legalise sports betting and lift the Chicago casino ban.
The legislation passed through the upper chamber on Sunday, June 2, and now awaits the signature of Governor JB Pritzker (pictured).
Besides the introduction of regulated sports betting, the bill outlines a massive expansion of the Illinois gambling industry as a whole.
If the new laws are confirmed, the state will grant licences to as many as six new casinos – including one in Chicago, where casino gambling is currently illegal within city limits.
The 10 existing Illinois casinos will be able to expand their gaming options by up to 70 per cent, while the eventual holder of the Chicago casino licence will also have the right to operate slot machines at the O’Hare International and Midway airports.
“The next step here for the bill is for Governor Pritzker to sign it, and given he has been supportive of expanded gaming thus far, this is probably a done deal,” said Joseph Greff, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
“Possible litigation can be filed as a way to delay, but it likely won’t derail the bill’s eventuality.”
The gambling reforms are but one part of Gov. Pritzker’s plans to raise funds for statewide infrastructure upgrades.
Illinois’ $40 billion budget was approved last week with support from both sides of the aisle – a welcome change from the legislative gridlock that occurred under Bruce Rauner, the previous governor.
“For the first time in many years, we met our most basic responsibility in this state — a real balanced budget,” Pritzker said in a press conference on Sunday.
“Just a few years ago, just passing a budget was considered nearly impossible.
“But this year, by passing a balanced budget, we’ve demonstrated that a progressive, forward-thinking vision is in perfect harmony with fiscal responsibility.”
If Pritzker signs off on the reforms as expected, Illinois will become the midwestern centrepiece of the US gambling boom.
Neighbouring Iowa legalised sports betting only last month, while Indiana is expected to follow suit sometime this year.
Eight US states have introduced gambling on sporting events since the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) last year, while several more are on the verge of launching regulated sportsbook industries.
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