Why Is Sports Betting Illegal in Illinois?

Illinois has some of the most incredible sports fans in the country, which was proved in 2014 when the state had the third-highest attendances in the country for the Super Bowl, the biggest game of the year.

The reason why sports betting is illegal in Illinois is because of the state’s constitution. Article 11 of the state constitution states that “sports betting is contrary to public policy”.

This means that, as a matter of policy, the government does not want to see people wagering on sports games. It considers this type of activity to be against the public interest.

It Promotes Illicit Gaming

One of the main problems with sports betting is that it can often become a way for people to make quick money from illegal activities, such as drug dealing, fraud, and money laundering. These are very real problems that have become commonplace in other states that have legalised sports betting.

As a result of the problems that come with sports betting, it is often considered to be a gateway to other illegal activities, which is certainly a serious charge to make against a legal practice.

It has been suggested that if Illinois is going to legalise sports betting, it must do so strictly as a way of generating revenue, and not for social or ethical reasons.

It Provides An Opportunity For Organised Crime

Under normal circumstances, it is not a crime to bet on sports, as long as you are not risking more than you can afford to lose. It is also widely accepted that some of the biggest sports organisations in the world, such as the NFL and NBA, have been victims of corruption, with hundreds of millions of dollars allegedly being funnelled illegally by sports authorities and bookmakers. There is also a suspicion that the law may not be completely applied, with some betting shops providing a safe haven for criminals, as well as a way of laundering money.

When you add all these factors up, it is not hard to see why the Illinois government is so opposed to sports betting. It would not only be stealing from the wealthy, but it could also be providing a way for criminals to victimise the state’s citizens, as well as a potential way of laundering money through the activities of some of the state’s biggest sports stars.

It Creates Confusion

Another serious issue that arises from legalising sports betting in Illinois is that it creates a legal grey area. Under normal circumstances, it is against the law to bet on sporting events if you are in the USA. However, what constitutes ‘normal circumstances’ varies from state to state. In some places, such as Nevada, it is completely legal and in others, such as New York, it is considered extremely risky and can result in serious legal consequences, including up to a year in prison.

Some people in Illinois may assume that, because sports betting is legal in neighbouring states, it must be legal in Illinois as well. This is not necessarily the case, as each state has the power to enforce its own laws, and the legality of sports betting in any given state is completely at the discretion of the government.

It Destroys Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship is an important part of sports, as it represents the spirit of fair play. What is often forgotten is that, at the end of the day, sports are a business, and this business has a bottom line. When you put these two factors together, along with all the ill-will that comes with illegal activities, it is not hard to see why sportsmanship is considered an important factor to weigh into the equation when considering legalising sports betting in Illinois.

It Compromises The Integrity Of Sports

The integrity of sports is another important consideration, particularly in the light of all the money that is currently funnelled illegitimately by sports authorities and bookmakers. The suspicion is that, with legalisation, the amount of money flowing through illegal channels will increase, threatening the integrity of the sports that so many people in Illinois love.

To give you an idea of how serious this problem is (and, frankly, to attract a little more interest in legalising sports betting in Illinois), here are three big name sports stars who have been linked to match fixing in the past:

  • Barry Bonds – Known as ‘Mr. Octopus’ due to the fact that he had eight fingers on each of his hands, Barry Bonds is one of the greatest home run hitters of all time. Despite this, he has been linked to fixing several games, including a number of World Series. Bonds eventually pleaded no contest to charges of perjury and conspiracy to defraud the government in 2007. He was sentenced to three years in prison, although he served only nine months before being released on parole.
  • Roger Clemens – Another powerful athlete who has been linked to match fixing. Known for his extraordinary arm strength, ‘The Rocket’ has been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids and human growth hormone, to enhance his pitching skills. He has never been charged or convicted of any crime, but has been linked to suspicious betting activities.
  • Lance Armstrong – Another famous sports figure who has attracted a great deal of interest in connection with illegal sports activities. As the creator of the ‘Lance Armstrong Foundation,’ which aims to promote health and fitness, Lance has a lot to lose from the accusation that he is involved in match fixing. He has always denied the allegations and, in 2014, sued the French publication that had accused him of conspiring to defraud the government by rigging sporting events.

These are just three of the most high-profile sports stars in the country, who are all currently the subject of a criminal investigation for their suspected involvement in match fixing. If these sorts of allegations against some of the biggest names in American sports make you think twice about legalising sports betting in Illinois, then you should certainly consider it.

It Is A Way Of Life For Some

This is an important point to make when considering legalising sports betting in Illinois. For some people, sports are a way of life and they cannot imagine living a life that does not include sports. This type of excitement and immersion in sports is something that the state’s citizens take pride in, particularly as many of them have been directly impacted by the issues surrounding illegal gambling, as mentioned by the state’s anti-gambling commissioner, Greg Richmond, back in 2016:

“You will find many people in Illinois who love and have a relationship with sports, and that will never change. However, this state has realised that there is a dark side to sports and has taken steps to regulate and control illegal gambling activities in sports. As I have said many times before, Illinois is a community-based state. We always look to each other for support and answer questions. However, we must be realistic about the situation and ensure that our youth do not get involved in sports betting, which is a gateway to more serious criminal activities.”

So, you may ask, why should Illinois care about regulating sports betting, when it is a practice that mostly benefits tourists? The answer is simple: tourism is vital to the state’s economy, with approximately 1.7 million overnight stays being made in the country by foreign visitors in 2015. If illegal gambling threatens this vital source of income, then the government needs to take action.

On the subject of tourism, there is one last point to make about legalising sports betting in Illinois. As mentioned earlier, the state attracts a great deal of interest from foreign tourists, with many of them travelling from the UK and other parts of Europe to place wagers, especially given the large number of gambling resorts that are located within the state, which are openly advertised on television throughout the year. Do you really want to risk driving this sort of tourism away, through your support for illegal gambling?

It is clear that, whatever the reasons for or against legalising sports betting in Illinois, it is a subject that is certainly worth discussing.