Sports betting became legal in Illinois in June of 2019. While this proved to be an economically viable development for the state, it appears that the legislative action also worsened the rate of problem gambling in the state. The Illinois Department of Human Services found that 3.8% of adults in the state had a gambling problem, while another 7.7% are at risk of developing a gambling problem.
To combat the rising spate of sports wagering addiction in the state, the Illinois Senate has passed a bill taking new measures to prevent problem gambling. The bill requires licensed sports betting apps to notify gamblers about the time they spend wagering on online platforms.
Senate Bill 1508 specifically dictates that sports betting operators ought to inform players via a pop-up message at least once every hour. The message should indicate not only the time spent wagering but also how much money they have spent while betting since the current online session.
In addition, the message will include a hyperlink to problem gambling websites and phone numbers that offer assistance to players with an addiction.
The bill was initiated by Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat, with a view to addressing the potential harm that stems from problem gambling. The bill progressed from the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee.
While filing the bill, Cunningham explained:
“Illinois has been a leader in the regulation of sports betting, and we need to ensure that we are also addressing the potential harms associated with gambling addiction. By requiring sports wagering apps to display a pop-up message with resources for gambling addiction assistance, we can help individuals who may be struggling with problem gambling access the help they need.”
In the last week of March 2023, the bill was passed on the Senate floor and subsequently referred to the Illinois House of Representatives for the first hearing by the Rules Committee. All Illinois 54 senators voted unanimously to approve the bill on its third reading.
Before its passage, the bill only underwent two minor sentence changes from the Health and Human Services Committee and Senator Cunningham, respectively.
Advocating for the bill, Cunningham explained that lawmakers had a responsibility to protect vulnerable gamblers considering the revenue from sports betting. Since 2019, when sports betting was legalized in the state, Illinoisians have wagered over $19.7 billion.
“I think we would all acknowledge that [legalizing sports betting] brings with it some responsibility for those of us who are policymakers,” Cunningham said in an interview with WAND. “And I think that we need to ensure that part of that responsibility is making sure people who have problems with gambling can easily get help.”
Before the bill finally becomes law, it still requires a majority vote on the floor of the House and the signature of Governor J.B. Pritzker.
Alongside the problem gambling bill, two other sports wagering bills were passed in the Senate around the same period. The first, Bill 323, reduces the amount for renewing the licenses of sportsbook operators from $150,000 annually to $50,000.
On the other hand, Bill 1462 updates the eligibility requirements for people with criminal records seeking to obtain an occupational license. According to the bill, the Illinois Gaming Board is obliged to take into account the length of conviction, the severity of charges, and the number of convictions before granting a license.
The bills come at a time when the IGB is currently reviewing the license application of five sports betting operators. The state has also made administrative efforts to prevent problem gambling.
For instance, as part of its budgetary allocation for the 2023 fiscal year, Illinois set aside $10 million to combat problem gambling. This allocation includes it “Are You Really Willing” campaign targeted at helping people access addiction helplines.