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President Roberts and local officials discuss sports gambling

The fourth panel of the annual Charley Stiner Symposium featured the vice president and general manager of Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino, Cori Rutheford. Photo by Morgan Patrick

“Grand Salami,” “juice” and “chalk” will soon become common jargon inside Illinois casinos. All are terms related to sports betting, which has now been legalized in Illinois. This was also a topic of a panel discussion at the fifth annual Charley Steiner Symposium on Tuesday.

Sports gambling has been a hot button issue in the United States since the Supreme Court legalized it in all 50 states in 2018. Illinois passed legislation last spring that allowed casinos to obtain a sportsbook license. On the panel, Bradley University president Gary Roberts discussed the state’s reason for passing the act.

“They passed it to raise revenue, Lord knows they need it,” Roberts said.

The bill, which was over 800 pages in length, legalized sports betting and increased the number of casinos allowed in the state. Although sports gambling has been legalized, it is still unclear when bettors can place bets, considering Illinois legislatures still need to write regulations.

Also, on the panel was Cori Rutherford, vice president and general manager of Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino in Peoria, and Mike Unes, who represents Illinois’ 91st district in the state House of Representatives.

Unes said he voted against the bill because of a lack of regulation and the high cost for casinos to obtain a license, which can cost up to $10 million compared to a maximum of $100,000 in Indiana and $50,000 in Iowa.

“Knowing that the surrounding states are going to be able to do it at a lesser expense, I’m not sure that the projected revenues are going to be there because I think it’s going to really question whether or not an organization really wants to get into that arena,” Unes said.

Rutherford said Par-A-Dice will consider obtaining a license, which will cost the riverboat casino five percent of its annual gross revenue from last year. That number equates to a total of $3.7 million for the license.

According to Unes, many who voted on the bill did not read it. Susan Luisie, an Illinois resident, said this was something she worries about.

“My concern with what [Unes] said was how many bills are they voting on that many of them aren’t even reading about,” Luisie said. “By legalizing it, in one way it could be a good thing, but it sounds like they really don’t know how much money they will generate from it.”

One issue raised during the panel is what will be done with those struggling with a gambling addiction.

“There is a huge problem right now in our area with addiction and behavioral health, which is yet another reason why you need regulation,” Unes said.

Unes and Rutherford both said Illinois casinos have lists of individuals with gambling addictions who are banned from casinos. However, they said there would not be anything stopping these individuals from gambling at a non-casino property including lottery kiosks.

The symposium also featured panels on esports, sports marketing and building relationships with the media. The night ended with a talk between Steiner and fellow alumnus Ralph Lawler, the hall of fame former broadcaster for the Los Angeles Clippers.

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