Illinois bill to improve sports betting RG gutted for new lotto product expansion

Stack of lottery tickets
Image: Shutterstock

What was intended to be a bill to strengthen responsible gambling messaging within Illinois online sports betting apps has a new purpose after the Senate gutted the bill and replaced the language with language to add new Illinois Lottery games.

Sen. Bill Cunningham originally filed SB1508 with a relatively simple change in language. The bill required that online sportsbooks in the state needed to display a pop-up ad after every ten bets a user places with information about responsible and problem gambling resources in Illinois.

There was a Senate amendment that revised the language to the following:

“The [Illinois Gaming Board] shall require a licensed online sports wagering operator to, at least once every hour, display a message advising the individual on the time elapsed since logging on, advising the individual of the amount of money wagered since logging on, and including hyperlinks to websites and telephone numbers that offer gambling addiction assistance.”

That bill passed the Senate with literally no pushback, as it was sent to the House after a unanimous 54-0 vote. However, a House amendment literally deleted the entire text of the bill and replaced it with a piece of legislation that would allow for the issuance of several new lottery scratch-off games designed to benefit charities and community groups including multiple sclerosis research, homelessness reduction, cancer research, the United Negro College Fund, and Alzheimer’s care.

The new language allows the Illinois Lottery to issue no more than 10 of these specialty scratch-off games. Net revenues from the games would be equally divided among the special causes the games are designated to benefit.

The House passed the bill last Friday in a 78-30 vote before it was sent back to the Senate for concurrence. The Senate voted to adopt the measure as well by a vote of 35-18, but not before removing Sen. Jil Tracey as a co-sponsor.

The bill now heads to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk for signature with no remnants of its original intent to address problem gambling issues in the state. As consultant Brianne Doura-Schawohl noted on Twitter, the bill would’ve been a national first for online sports betting in a state with higher than average problem gambling issues.

This is the second time this legislative season that a bill has been hijacked, gutted, and replaced with language designed to expand gambling. Earlier this year in an arguably more egregious move, Georgia lawmakers used a bill to celebrate children’s soap box derby races to make a last-ditch effort to legalize sports betting that ultimately failed.