In its quest to legalize sports wagers, Illinois could look to New Jersey, Nevada or any of the other eight states that have already put betting laws on the books.
But a new report suggests the Prairie State may also want to look across the Atlantic for help on a framework.
The Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois released a report this week concluding a 15 percent tax, the rate currently levied on gambling revenues in the United Kingdom, along with a monitoring fee and licensing fee, may provide the best mix of job creation and revenue while limiting black market bets.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year opened the door for state-sponsored sports wagering, striking down a federal ban on it in Murphy v. NCAA. Now it’s up to state lawmakers to decide whether and how to regulate it alongside casinos, horse-racing tracks and video game terminals, which are already legal.
“Billions of dollars are already bet illegally in Illinois. Legalization would allow [the] state to regulate the activity while collecting new tax revenues. A balanced framework that combines the United Kingdom’s 15 percent tax on gross gambling revenues, a $100,000 annual license fee and a small .05 percent ‘integrity fee’ on the total amount wagered to ensure compliance and prevent fraud may offer a way forward,” the report, released Tuesday, concludes.
The analysis evaluated that package against two proposals introduced in the General Assembly last year, Senate Bill 3432 and House Bill 5186. The former would levy a 12.5 percent tax on gambling revenue and a $10,000 licensing fee for establishments that want to offer sports wagering as well as a monitoring or “integrity” fee of 1 percent that would be collected by sports leagues. With federal taxes, that idea would effectively tax gambling at 33.3 percent, the researchers wrote.
The latter plan contains no provisions for a monitoring fee, but starts with a 30 percent tax on revenue and a $250,000 licensing fee for establishments. With federal taxes, it has an effective tax rate of 34.2 percent.
The analysis found the Senate and House bills would create roughly 1,800 jobs and bring in between $50 million and $120 million annually for the state. Meanwhile, the U.K.-inspired plan would bring in about $100 million for the state each year while creating about 2,500 jobs.
Much of the optimism about that plan, relative to the ideas already introduced in the legislature, stems from its effective tax rate of 20 percent, and how bettors would respond.
“The current proposals, however, impose a high effective tax on gambling revenue in excess of 30 percent. This would discourage many bettors from placing bets at licensed sportsbooks and result in nearly half of all activity remaining in the black market,” the study states.
Whichever direction lawmakers decide to go, the report also warned that “the modest tax revenues from sports betting will not solve Illinois’ fiscal issues and should be weighed against the potential costs of gambling addiction.”
The House gambling measure was sponsored by Rep. Tim Butler, a Republican from Springfield. The Senate measure was sponsored by Sen. Napoleon Harris, a Flossmoor Democrat. They could not be reached for comment.
Frank Manzo IV, policy director for the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and one of the co-authors of the report, said each of the ideas they evaluated — including plans in states such as Nevada and New Jersey, which generally tax gambling revenue at lower rates — have strengths and weaknesses. But the results of their analysis suggest the right balance is in taxing revenue enough to make a difference, but not so much that it convinces players to keep their betting off-the-books.
“In Las Vegas, there basically is no black market, so that’s kind of the gold standard or starting place if you want to bring all bettors into the legal marketplace.” Manzo said in an interview this week. Nevada taxes gambling revenue at a relatively low 6.75 percent, but that rate would bring in only about $48.6 million annually in Illinois. The researchers concluded that about 20 percent of bets would still be off-the-books under the U.K.-style tax rate of 15 percent.
“There’s a tradeoff, a balance between generating revenue, and opening up the market completely to bettors. That’s kind of what our report aims to show,” Manzo said.
The title of the report is “Legalizing Sports Betting in Illinois.” It was authored along with Robert Bruno, director of the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.