Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee Chairman Mike Zalewksi, State Representative for the 23rd district, is spearheading the initiatives to get sports gambling legalized in the state. If it all works out and goes according to plan, with no unforeseen hurdles along the way, legal sports gaming could be here by the next Super Bowl.
Zalewski is working with state Rep. Bob Rita to lead House discussions on this issue. The process began at the same time that March Madness/the NCAA Tournament, one of the biggest and most lucrative sports wagering events of the calendar, began.
We had a telephone exclusive with Zalewski, and you can hear that conversation below:
Zalewski filed four separate amendments to House Bill 3308, with each amendment representing a potential direction that the state house will go towards legalizing sports betting:
1. Classical New Jersey Model
2. Mississippi Model
3. Professional Sports League Proposals
4. Lottery Oversight.
New Jersey seems to be leading the way right and that makes sense given how their legal sports gambling industry really ramped up when football season began.
"I think that generally Chris Christie was out front on this, so they had the most time to prepare for it," Zalewski said.
"New Jersey has done the best job so far, but each state is its own unique territory, and each state has to do what's best for it. So I don't necessarily prejudge what another state has done either."
While enacting this legislation will obvious be a boon to big business, what's in it for us- the everyday Illinois citizen?There will be additional tax revenue, and that should inspire innovation and entrepreneurship the state rep said. Additionally, Zalewski says the added income will help with the state's crippling debts.
"The first and foremost benefit is that the state is going to derive tax revenue from the proposal," the House Finance Committee continued.
"If that happens, the state will be in a better position to pay its bills, and as a result we can make a small approach in solving our fiscal problems, which makes for a better economic outcome, if people choose to live in the state."
"There will be some ancillary benefits if casinos add sports books, they will have to hire employees, I think others will chime in with other ideas and come to the table with innovative ideas that lead to entrepreneurship in technological forums."
Zalewski’s district includes one of the state’s professional sports franchises, Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire, who play their home games in suburban Bridgeview.
In a gerrymandering quirk, Seat Geek Stadium (formerly Toyota Park) and the parking lots to the south, west and east lie in district 23, while the north parking lot does not. Take a look
Of course, the Chicago Fire may not be residing in this district much longer, as news broke this week of their moving towards potentially leaving suburban Bridgeview, and back into Soldier Field. Additionally, the club may even do a re-brand once the move is complete.
Seven states (Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) have legal, government regulated sports gambling industries in place, with New Mexico and Arkansas up next. Additionally, the wheels have started moving in 30 more states.
Follow Zalewski on Twitter here (@mjzalewski)
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the "Let's Get Weird, Sports" podcast on SB Nation.
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