ADW Companies Stop Taking Wagers in Illinois

Two of four providers take action after General Assembly fails to renew authority.

By Bob Kieckhefer

At least two of the four companies conducting advance deposit wagering in Illinois are shutting down operations for Illinois residents because that form of wagering is now illegal in the Land of Lincoln.

The outgoing Illinois General Assembly wound up its business Jan. 8 without renewing authority for ADW. Lacking that approval, the Illinois Racing Board declined to renew licenses for the four firms involved.

Two of the four, TVG and locally based BetZotic, have indicated they will pull the plug on accounts for Illinois residents, IRB Executive Director Marc Laino said Jan. 9. The others, Xpressbet and Twin Spires, have not indicated an intention to terminate operations, he said.

Xpressbet's site said wagering is not available on Balmoral and Maywood harness races -- tracks affiliated with BetZotic ownership. It did not indicate any other restriction on wagering by Illinois residents.

TVG notified Illinois clients by e-mail early in the week their ability to wager through the system would end Jan. 10 but that accounts would continue to be available for inspection and other non-wagering activity. BetZotic's website announced wagering activities for Illinois residents ended Jan. 1.

Laino earlier said the board will ask the Illinois Attorney General to enforce the law. But it is widely expected eventual renewal of ADW authorization will include retroactivity, which would render any enforcement activity moot.

Retroactive approval also would require payment of back taxes on ADW wagering.

Chairman William Barry said at the December IRB meeting there were no issues with any of the existing ADW licensees and that he expected all of them to be renewed once legislation is passed. That sentiment was expressed, however, before ADW was made illegal.

ADW is one of the few growth areas in Illinois racing. Laino said $122 million was wagered through ADW in Illinois during 2012, with the state taking $1.75 million in taxes on those bets. Revenue from ADW also accounts for almost 30% of the IRB's budget, he said, and failure to reauthorize the system would put a crimp in the agency's ability to continue operations.

While it failed to act on ADW, the outgoing General Assembly lobbed one last racing-related bomb toward Gov. Pat Quinn's desk.

On Tuesday, Senate President John Cullerton gave a final legislative shove to Senate Bill 744, a massive gaming expansion plan that passed both houses May 31, 2011. Among many other provisions, the bill would authorize a Chicago casino and slot machines at the state's race tracks.

Cullerton had held the bill in the Senate through a technicality because Quinn threatened to veto it. In the interim, the House and Senate passed a scaled-down version of gaming expansion and the governor, in fact, vetoed that measure.

The significance of Cullerton's action is somewhat murky. The Illinois Constitution says the governor has 60 days after receipt of a bill to either sign or veto it. If he does not act within that time, the bill becomes law without his signature. A veto would have to be dealt with by "the same General Assembly" that originally passed the bill, according to the Constitution, so that action would kill the measure.

A Cullerton spokesman described as "procedural" the decision to dust off the bill 19 months after its passage and send it to Quinn. But unless there are plans for it, the measure could have been allowed to die with thousands of others that expired along with the terms of outgoing lawmakers.

And any time the Illinois General Assembly does something unusual, suspicion grows like weeds in a pasture that a deal is in the works. That feeling is fertilized in this case by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's ardent desire for a Loop-area casino to help cover some of his city's budget shortfalls.