Online Horse Gambling Off and Running in Illinois
Racing Board approves 3 Web sites to take wagers
Monique Garcia | Chicago Tribune via YellowBrix
October 14, 2009
Gamblers can now play the ponies without leaving the comfort of home after the Illinois Racing Board gave permission Tuesday to three companies to host online horse betting.
The decision means gamblers can place bets on horses through approved Web sites or by phone, interactive television and mobile devices. Previously, wagers could be made only at a horse track or an off-track betting parlor. Both have seen a decline in business in recent years.
In giving their approval, board members said they hope online betting will make it easier for people to get involved with horse racing, while also attracting a younger, Web-savvy clientele.
“I think it’s great that Illinois is finally getting into the electronic age,” said Dennis Bookshester, a Racing Board commissioner from Chicago. “This is an opportunity for us to really increase the amount of interest in our sport.”
At least one company launched its online betting program within hours of the board’s approval, a quick turnaround that was expected because all three sites already are set up to han- dle online betting in other states.
To place bets, gamblers must set up an account on one of the approved Web sites. They enter credit card or other payment information needed to make a wager. Gamblers also can review past performances and other betting statistics and watch races streaming live from around the world.
The state applies a 1.75 percent tax on each transaction, which regulators estimate will raise as much as $1 million a year. The rest is divided among track owners and horsemen in the form of increased purses.
“Other states gravitated to Internet betting much faster than Illinois did, and it hurt the Illinois racing industry because unlicensed, unregulated people were taking bets,” said John Hindman, an attorney for TVG Network, one of the companies now licensed to conduct online betting. “They weren’t being taxed, so the state didn’t get any money, the horsemen didn’t get any money.”
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