Illinois Legislature Throws A Hail Mary With Late Effort To Legalize Online Gambling

Steve Ruddock May 30, 2017 2611 Reads
Illinois capitol online gambling

A new contender has thrown its hat in the online gambling ring: Illinois.

With just a couple of days before the legislative sessions comes to an end, bills with online gambling bills in them emerged in the state.

Illinois would be as big a win for online gambling proponents.

Not only is the state one of the most populous in the US, with nearly 13 million residents, it could also serve as a catalyst to push other states, such as Pennsylvania, across the finish line.

If you’re an Illinois resident pining for your state to legalize online poker or daily fantasy sports, you can contact your elected representatives here.

The current effort to legalize online gambling

The effort isn’t completely out of the blue, nor is this Illinois’ first go-round with online gambling. However, it’s been several years since the topic came up in earnest.

The state already offers online lottery, and we included the Land of Lincoln as one of our dark-horse states to pass online gambling legislation earlier this year.

The bills being considered (S 208 and S 1805) also include daily fantasy sports legalization. A third piece of legislation is also in play, S 1667, which is a standalone DFS bill.

Adding fuel to the speculation fire, both bills passed the House Rules Committee this morning.

According to Illinois lobbyist Steve Brubaker, S 1805 is further along. The Senate already passed that bill, with the House adding the online gambling and DFS components.

The alacrity with which the legislation is being addressed could set the stage for an 11th hour vote before the legislature adjourns.

Lack of time could be online gambling’s undoing

There is almost no margin for error or delay, as the legislature adjourns on Wednesday.

Because of the time constraints, and the legislature’s history with online gambling and DFS proposals, the bills are long shots.

But they’re not dead on arrival; they’re essentially Hail Mary’s.

Source chatter in Springfield has the bills categorized as viable. So, despite being under the gun, there is a path forward that could see Illinois leapfrog Pennsylvania and several other states and join the ranks of states with legal online gambling.

Inside the legislation

Illinois’ online gambling legislation is similar to efforts that have emerged in other states.

As currently written, the bill calls for:

  • An upfront license fee of $10 million, which is an advanced payment on future taxes owed. Licenses would be open to licensed gaming entities in the state, including riverboat casinos, tracks, and qualifying Advanced Deposit Wagering facilities.
  • A 10 percent tax on online casino games and a 15 percent tax on online poker.

But as Chris Grove notes, “The bill is in flux, so the particulars – including tax rate, license fee, and license eligibility – could all change rapidly.”

What’s behind the late push?

As Dustin Gouker surmised at Online Poker Report, the fusion of online gambling and DFS could be an olive branch to Rush Street Gaming, which operates the Rivers Casino near Chicago, and has been a vocal critic of DFS and a vocal supporter of online gambling.

“One possible scenario: A last-minute deal is being brokered to get Rivers to ease off its DFS position by legalizing online gambling,” Gouker wrote.

Although the simpler answer is, like other states, Illinois could simply use the revenue. That would be along the lines of $130 million in upfront licensing fees, and another $160 million over the first five years from tax revenue, according to analysis by Chris Grove.

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