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Emily D. Swoboda

Internet Betting Could Find Its Way to Illinois

28 September 2007

Illinois may be the next U.S. state to allow Internet betting on horse races.

A bill pending in the state House aimed at funding statewide construction projects through the expansion of Illinois casinos includes an amendment, introduced by Sen. Rickey Hendon, (D), that would legalize off track advance-deposit wagering on horse races within the state.

The U.S. Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), enacted in Oct. 2006, may have effectively wiped out most of the remote gambling industry in the United States, but it did include exemptions for horse race wagering. While Illinois law does prohibit Internet gambling, it does not clearly indicate whether the ban extends to horse race wagering.

So far, no track in the state has tried to rock the boat, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Should the measure pass, the Illinois Racing Board (IRB) would oversee the licensing and regulation of advance-deposit wagering sites and facilities. And while the legislation doesn't use the word "Internet," IRB Executive Director Marc Laino said that is precisely what it means.

"Internet gaming is here," Laino told the Post-Dispatch. "Trying to keep it out of Illinois will only limit the potential revenue for the state."

Katie Ridgeway, public information officer for the IRB, told IGN that no sites have been licensed yet. Furthermore, if the bill passed, it would take at least 90 days to establish licensing procedures and guidelines before the program could begin, she said.

The measure is not without opposition, of course. Long-time Internet gambling foe John Kindt, a professor of business and legal policy at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, said allowing online horse race betting in Illinois would be allowing the worst kind of gambling in the state.

"It's click your mouse, lose your house," Kindt said.

There is also the matter of getting it past Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who has historically been opposed to gambling expansion.

The measure passed the state Senate on Sept. 18 and is expected to be heard in the House in the next few weeks.

Calls to Sen. Rickey Hendon's office were not immediately returned.

Internet Betting Could Find Its Way to Illinois is republished from
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda