Sports gambling will soon be legal in Illinois, but as is the case with so many things in this state, the process is frustrating many people.
It remains unclear exactly when bettors can start placing wagers on sporting events. In July, a state representative said it would likely start in time for Super Bowl Sunday, which is in early February.
That’s still four months away, so while every major professional sport is in season—Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League—along with popular college sports, Illinois residents have to look elsewhere to bet, whether it’s in Indiana or through off-shore websites.
The Illinois Gaming Board, which is preparing the framework for how sports betting will be conducted in the state, released hundreds of comments on sports betting recently, both supporting and opposing its legalization. One commenter wrote, “Get on it already,” a blunt and appropriate summation of where things stand.
Indiana legalized sports gambling in early September—just in time for the Chicago Bears to begin their season. Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher placed the first sports bet at Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Ind., on Sept. 5, and former coach Mike Ditka joined former Bears great Devin Hester to celebrate at Ameristar Casino in East Chicago, Ind.
Illinois already has 10 casinos and is set to build six more. Chicago plans to build a privately owned casino, with funds supporting the woefully underfunded police and firefighter pension funds, as well as Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s $45-billion “Rebuild Illinois” construction plan.
The debate continues about where Chicago’s casino should be built, and an independent study conducted by Union Gaming Analytics said the five proposed sites wouldn’t provide much help.
Suburbs have released their plans to build casinos, which means Chicago could fall further behind in attracting gamblers.
Critics of legalized sports gambling have understandable concerns, including young people becoming addicted and going broke and athletes being swayed to fix games.
However, sports gambling is already so prevalent, both legally and illegally, that Illinois needed to legalize it.
One commenter to the Illinois Gaming Board spoke of “making the drive to Indiana in the meantime” while waiting for sports gambling to start in Illinois.
The state needs to move more efficiently. Money is literally walking out the door.