Illinois Pizzeria Owner Seeks Legalized Sports Betting

on May 12, 2015
Illinois pizzeria owner Mike Butirro sports betting

Illinois pizzeria owner Mike Butirro wants his state to legalize sports betting to help reduce the ongoing fiscal headaches being experienced in America’s fifth most populous state. (Image: Rick West/Daily Herald)

Illinois pizzeria owner Mike Butirro doesn’t gamble, nor does he want to offer gambling services.

Instead, the Elgin, IL, business owner wants his elected lawmakers to consider bringing sports betting to his home state as an additional source of revenue to help eradicate the current fiscal crisis.

Butirro has already met with US Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a three-term representative who is running for the United States Senate in 2016, and State Rep. Anna Moeller (D-43rd District), to discuss the potential benefits of legalizing sports betting.

“It just makes sense,” Butirro said. “We already have gambling in the state, and people are doing it (sports betting) on the Internet and in back alleys, so what’s the difference?”

Butirro’s Burrito

Peeling back the many layers of the legislative process is something Butirro is quickly learning isn’t quite as straightforward as it probably should be.

In addition to the federal law hindering Illinois lawmakers from passing sports betting, the state government’s course of action is tedious and borderline disheartening.

“Sports betting is no different from blackjack, five-card draw or Texas Hold’em,” Ron Lange, a real estate agent in Elgin and Butirro friend said. “It’s like adding another table at the casino.”

But in reality, it’s much more difficult than simply adding another table, as NJ Governor Chris Christie has discovered.

After signing a bill into law to allow sports betting at casinos and racetrack last fall, the NCAA and four major professional sports leagues responded with a collaborative lawsuit, with a judge’s ruling expected something this summer.

With the exception of Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 bans all wagering on athletics. Due to the fact that legalized sports betting was legal at the time of PASPA’s passing in those four states, an exemption was issued.

Playing by the Rules

Though current law dictates sports betting is illegal, that could change should New Jersey be victorious in its lawsuit filed by the NCAA, MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. State Rep. Lou Lang (D-16th District) says Illinois needs to consider the issue now, so it can ready itself for rapid implementation should the Garden State win.

“The states that get on top of these kinds of issues are going to create interstate compacts with each other and get ahead of us in this area,” Lang affirmed.

But Lang’s preemptive strategy doesn’t come with a lot of optimism. “Will we do some proactive work to get ready? My answer is: ‘Probably not.'”

“We can’t even pass a simple bill to give Chicago a casino. I don’t think we’re going to get ahead of the curve.”

Illinois is currently drowning in debt, owing  $111 billion in unfunded liabilities relating to government employee pensions. That correlates to each resident of the Lincoln State owing $24,959 as his or her individual share to resolve such a debt.

Sports betting certainly wouldn’t be able to eradicate a figure so substantial, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.