Illinois Racing Board refuses ADW licenses; online bets ‘illegal’
Illinois lawmakers wrapped up a legislative session this week without providing new authorization for advanced deposit wagering companies to take bets on the state's racetracks. With no legislative approval in place, the Illinois Racing Board has declined to renew licenses to the four ADW companies that have been operating in the state.
“It's been made clear to those providers that it's the position of the board that ADW wagers on Illinois racing are now illegal,” said Marc Laino, the board's executive director.
“There was legislation introduced in the veto session in January. It went to committee but didn't receive enough votes.”
Of the four ADWs, Laino said he believes two of them – Twinspires and Xpressbet – continue to accept wagers on Illinois tracks. BetZotic, a local platform affiliated with harness venues Balmoral and Maywood Park, stopped taking bets Jan. 1. TVG told its customers that as of Thursday, it would also not be doing business in Illinois.
“TVG's website will remain available to access funds and view or purchase handicapping information however wagering will not be allowed,” TVG stated in a note to subscribers. “We apologize for this inconvenience and remain hopeful the law will be renewed in the near future.”
The initial legalization of ADW wagering in Illinois took place in 2009. The law was extended for six months in 2012 but expired Jan. 1.
“I'm being told the issue will be taken up by the legislature in mid-February,” Laino said, although he didn't know whether the ADW authorization might be in stand-alone legislation or rolled into a larger gambling bill.
Laino said all four providers were issued a directive concerning the expiration of the ADW law, but Twinspires.com and Xpressbet.com have not indicated that they are complying.
“I don't know on what basis they feel it's permissible to still take wagers,” Laino said.
Laino said the board is exploring options with the state Attorney General's office over the potential criminal code violations by Twinspires and Xpressbet. It's possible that if the ADW law is renewed at some point, it could be made retroactive to Jan. 1, but Laino reiterated that currently, the wagers are illegal.
Bill Carstanjen, president and chief operating officer of Twinspires' parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., did not return a phone call Thursday inquiring about Twinspires.com's business in Illinois. Ron Luniewski, president of Xpressbet, did not respond to an email concerning the issue.
The legislature's decision not to renew the ADW law is a significant blow to Illinois racing and the Illinois Racing Board specifically.
Last year, $122 million was wagered through ADWs in Illinois, about a fifth of the total in-state handle. The state collected $1.75 million in taxes on those bets. The Illinois Racing Board derives 28% of its revenue from ADW business.
“The enactment and authorization has been a godsend in Illinois,” Laino said.
“The racing board was supportive of legalization because we knew it was taking place anyway, but there was no benefit to the state of Illinois. We continue to support it.”