Illinois Gov. Signs Online Wagering Bill

Gov. Pat Quinn Aug. 26 approved a bill legalizing online wagering on horse racing.

Illinois gambling patrons will now have the opportunity of placing their bets online, as Gov. Pat Quinn approved a bill Aug. 26 legalizing online wagering on horse racing.

This marks the first time any form of Internet gaming has been legal in the Prairie State. Illinois now joins a growing number of jurisdictions that have already approved online gaming legislation.  

“Online betting is now expressly legal in Illinois, and horse racing fans in the state will soon be able to experience the thrill of placing bets on their favorite races over the Internet,” said Gerard Cunningham, president of Betfair US, which owns the horse race wagering site “We applaud the State of Illinois for enacting this bill, which allows residents to legally and safely bet online and also benefits horse owners and tracks in the state.”

The bill, which passed the Senate in June, will allow bettors to set up accounts to wager from their personal computers and hand held devices.

Now that the legislation has been signed by Quinn, the Illinois Racing Board will draft and adopt regulations to implement the law. The Internet gambling sites with which the state’s tracks will partner will then be eligible to be licensed by the Illinois Racing Board and accept wagers from Illinois residents.

The online wagering money will be split three ways between the horsemen, the state’s track owners, and the online companies. Some say the funds won’t generate a significant amount of revenue because of the split.

But Lanny Brooks, executive director of the Illinois Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association, said most horsemen are eager for the change.

"The horsemen at Fairmount (Park) are very excited about (Advance Deposit Wagering) becoming law," he said. "We worked very hard on this bill and were successful in getting language that is very favorable to Fairmount horsemen.

"For the first time, we are treated equally with the Chicago tracks and their horsemen as far as sharing in ADW proceeds. The estimate I've heard is that about $100 million dollars had been wagered through ADW providers in the past. Since the Attorney General had offered an opinion that it was illegal, we received none of this for our purses. That will now change. Any ADW company wishing to operate in Illinois must have a host track and must apply to the Illinois Racing Board to be licensed. I've heard estimates of $200 million in ADW handle in the future. This is definitely a positive thing for us at a time when something positive is really needed."

Fairmount Park in Collinsville recently announced its 2009 meeting would end 18 days earlier than planned due to a lack of funding. The meet closed Aug. 15, meaning the track did not run its Illinois-bred stakes scheduled for Aug. 25.

Brooks earlier stated that Fairmount was operating $2.4 million in the red at the end of its meet without the boost from a supply of equity funds that is being held in escrow.