Illinois Legislator Discusses New Online Gaming and Poker Bill

Sean Chaffin February 24, 2021
Lawmakers in Illinois introduced an online gaming and poker bill this week.

There continues to be some movement among US states regarding online poker and iGaming in general. The latest comes in Illinois where two state representatives introduced an Internet gaming bill this week.

The legislation would legalize all forms of online gaming including poker. Rep. Robert Rita (D) and Rep. Jonathan Carroll (D) co-sponsored the bill.

Carroll spoke this week with USPoker about the bill and what it could mean for the state.

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What’s in the bill and what does it mean for online poker players?

The Illinois bill is officially known as the Internet Gaming Act (IGA) and would legalize real money online casino gaming, slots, and poker. The Illinois Gaming Board would be charged with regulating the industry.

After legalizing online sports betting last summer, online gaming appears next up. At least Carroll and Rita are hoping so.

The IGA would allow for the state’s casinos and racetracks to offer up to three gaming skins. Those properties could partner with other online gaming companies as seen in other states.

Online gaming would be taxed at 12% of gross gaming revenue with $10 million set aside to treat problem gambling. If approved, Illinois would become the sixth state to legalize online poker.

“It’s been discussed over the past few years,” Carroll said of the bill and legalizing online gaming. “But with the success with online sports wagering it seemed like an appropriate time to further explore this idea.”

Rep. Jonathan Carroll

Carroll has received some positive reviews from colleagues and believes the bill has a chance at passage. Gov. JB Pritzker (D) hasn’t commented, but Carroll believes he’d sign the bill if approved by the state house and senate.

“I haven’t had a conversation with him about it, but I don’t see why he’d oppose this considering how supportive he was of sports wagering,” he said. “I’ve had constituents reach out and want to see this done yesterday. It’s been very positive.

“I’m a very bad poker player, but I believe this will be huge for us and people will enjoy the experience.”

What would an Illinois online poker market look like?

Regulated online poker in Illinois would be a considerable addition to the list of legalized US states. That includes

  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • West Virginia

Online poker in Michigan officially launched in January when PokerStars went live. West Virginia has yet to see a poker site enter the market.

A federal appeals court recently struck down a Department of Justice opinion on the Wire Act. The court ruled that the act applied to sports betting and not other forms of iGaming.

That’s cleared the way for possible expansion of interstate compacts for legal online poker sites. That would lead to larger player and prize pools. The Illinois bill gives the gaming board the authority to enter into these compacts.

Illinois has a population of about 12.7 million. That’s about 100,000 fewer than Pennsylvania, the largest state with legalized online poker.

The state brings a nice number to add to interstate compacts for shared liquidity. All five current legalized states combined with Illinois equal a total population of about 49 million.

With several legalized casinos, Illinois has a nice poker scene around the state. Regulation in the Prairie State would further add to online poker’s success in the US.

Illinois and online gambling revenue

Passage in Illinois may bring online gaming quickly

While the wheels of government may move slowly, Carroll and Rita’s legislation makes an effort to launch iGaming fairly quickly. The IGA may be unique by attempting to fast-track efforts to get the industry off the ground.

Once approved, the legislation gives the gaming board 90 days to adopt emergency rules for the industry. The bill also requires the board to issue temporary licenses to companies already holding equivalent sports betting licenses.

Companies with online gaming licenses in other states could also receive temporary licenses. These measures could help ramp up the industry at a faster pace than seen in some states.

“I’d like to see this get done quickly and efficiently,” Carroll said. “We did that with sports wagering and the feedback has been great. If all goes well I believe this can be a reality by 2022.”

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Additional details on the legislation

The bill also outlines some other interesting caveats, as reported by Online Poker Report earlier this week including:

  • Allowing gaming company servers and computer systems to be located outside the state. Players only must wager within the state.
  • Players could link their Illinois wagering account to those they may have set up in other states.

One negative for the industry may be a requirement for players to register in person at a casino or racetrack. Some sports betting markets have created these stipulations, suppressing participation.

Fortunately that measure would only be in place for the first six months.

As real money online poker continues to explode around the world, US players continue to have some reason for optimism. States like Kentucky, Indiana, North Dakota, and Connecticut have seen efforts underway recently for regulated iGaming.

Many jurisdictions are grappling with revenue shortages due to COVID-19. Internet gaming and poker offer added funds to state coffers. It seems likely more will get on board.

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