Area reacts to ruling on sports betting

Area lawmakers and officials reacted with mixed emotions Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that had effectively barred states from allowing sports gambling.

The 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act prevented all but four states that already had sports betting from legalizing it. But in a 6-3 ruling Monday morning, the Supreme Court ruled that the act violated the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – which Effingham Mayor Jeff Bloemker was pleased to hear.

“As someone from the business sector, I certainly endorse anything that supports the free market system that has made America great,” said Bloemker. “I certainly like seeing any type of legislation that keeps our capitalistic society as unencumbered as we can.”

Fellow city council commissioner Merv Gillenwater said he wants to learn more about the ruling before knowing his final stance, but said initially if any state framework was created, as long as it didn’t amount to more financial burdens, he would likely support it.

“The state is already in financial problems, but if there was a way to recuperate the money we’d spend on it, then I’d be for it,” said Gillenwater. “But I certainly don’t want to take on something, a mandate, that we can’t fund. That would be my major concern.”

The ruling allowing states to create legal frameworks for sports gambling comes six years after Illinois legalized video gambling. In the time since the State of Illinois has received over $1 billion in tax revenue from the gaming terminals. Locally, Effingham has received $1.6 million in tax revenue, Altamont, $106,000, Dieterich, $42,000 and Teutopolis, $185,000.

But lawmakers would need to legalize a framework of some kind before sports gambling could come to Illinois.

“I don’t like the Federal government telling me anything except for a few issues,” said State Rep. Reggie Phillips (R-Charleston). “…I don’t think they should have been regulating that, it should have been a state issue.”

With that said, Phillips went on to say he can’t imagine voting for the legalization of sports gambling.

“I’m against gambling,” said Phillips, who will finish his second term in the House at the end of the year. “As a Christian, I don’t believe (in gambling) but I also don’t believe that it’s up to me to tell an individual what he or she should do … even though I hate us regulating, if I was asked to regulate it, if that was part of my job, I’m going to vote to say ‘no’ on gambling. It’s a catch 22.”

Effingham-based J&J Ventures owns video gaming terminals across the state. Officials there hope Illinois will forge ahead with some sort of legal framework.

“The PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) decision from the Supreme Court today answers a macro question regarding the ability for a state to implement a sports-based gaming program,” J&J Ventures’ Managing Member Bob Willenborg said in an emailed statement. “However, the gaming industry has a journey ahead with state legislatures and potentially the U.S. Congress to create these programs. J&J looks forward to participating in this new industry and working with the governing bodies to create a regulated entertainment platform that is beyond reproach.”

Contact Keith Stewart at or 217-347-7151, ext. 132.

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