SPRINGFIELD — Two Illinois companies providing online betting for horse racing to state residents have halted their services, according to the state's Racing Board. A Daily Herald report last month stated that the two companies, Xpressbet and TwinSpires, carried invalid licenses due to the expiration of a state law permitting online gambling on races on January 1. In spite of this report, the two companies continued to provide online betting services.
According to Illinois State Racing Board spokesman Mickey Ezzo, "Xpressbet and TwinSpires both ceased and desisted." Ezzo commented further that betting was halted on January 18, just days after the Daily Herald's report regarding the expired state law. An Xpressbet spokesman confirmed the company was no longer providing online betting services to Illinois residents, but declined further comment. TwinSpires, owned by Churchill Downs, also eliminated all online horse wagering services according to a company spokesman.
However, current legislation in the Illinois General Assembly is seeking to revive online gambling on horse racing. While legal, online horse wagering was a major source of profit for the state of Illinois. Last year, four licensed online wagering companies collected over $120 million in profits, generating large tax revenues for the state of Illinois.
Collinsville Democrat Jay Hoffman has drawn up legislation seeking to reinstate online horse wagering rights. In an interview, Hoffman stated that online horse wagering was an important source of state revenue and should continue. Hoffman's plan would restore online horse betting to the state following the previous model. According to Ezzo, the Illinois Racing Board supports Hoffman's proposal.
Illinois lawmakers may potentially debate a number of legal issues pertaining to gambling in the upcoming year. In addition to Hoffman's plan, state officials will consider legislation allowing slot machines at Arlington Park and for the construction of several new casinos in Lake County and Chicago. Hoffman's plan does not specifically address these issues. "I didn't want the bill to get bogged down in the other issues on the legality of gambling," Hoffman said. The upcoming year may potentially represent a major milestone in the future of online horse wagering in Illinois.
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