But in the past week, a state that was barely on anyone’s radar for iGaming — Illinois — passed legislation out of the state Senate.
If nothing else, it’s becoming more obvious that online gambling has more momentum than it has had at any point since 2013. Or at least governments are more willing to look at it as a possibility.
Illinois: Out of nowhere
The effort to legalize and regulate online gambling in Illinois materialized — at least publicly — almost out of thin air.
Of course, the truth is that this has more likely been rumbling in the background for some time; it just hasn’t manifested itself in legislation that was introduced and voted upon.
The effort came about because of an attempt to legalize daily fantasy sports late in the legislative session. It appears that the online gambling regulation is a carrot to the land-based casino industry to let DFS regulation move forward.
Some of the current gaming industry in Illinois has opposed DFS legalization over the past two years, and is likely the reason it hasn’t passed in 2015 or 2016.
Online gambling is going to take casino, lawmaker support
But the casinos support the bill that the Senate approved with both DFS and iGaming it this week.
Here is a statement from the Illinois Casino Gaming Association:
“We thank the Senate for advancing a comprehensive framework that legalizes and regulates online gaming. Existing law, which prevents Illinois’ licensed operators from offering any gaming product online, has created a vacuum filled by operators of illegal websites.
“By bringing online gaming out of the shadows and into a licensed and regulated market, Illinois can garner new tax revenues and tens of millions in upfront licensing fees that can be used for classrooms, pensions and social services.”
Online gambling isn’t going to happen in any state unless land-based gaming interests make it clear to lawmakers that 1. they want it and 2. it won’t hurt/will help their business.
No matter what, it’s impressive that online gambling is the carrot, and one that is relatively uncontroversial. (That goes for at least one chamber. The Senate passed the bill 42-10, but its fate in the House of Representatives remains unclear.)
But that kind of support — no matter the circumstances — for iGaming would have been unthinkable in some states in recent years.
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Expanding the map for iGaming
Serious online gambling efforts have mostly been limited to a handful of states in recent years:
Pennsylvania is the favorite, by a wide margin, to pass something this year over those other states. The likelihood of action in the other three this year seems low.
So short of states passing bills, simply getting on the agenda of other goverments will have to suffice. A big state like Illinois passing iGaming legislation even out of one chamber should be a wake-up call to other gaming states in the Midwest that haven’t thought about the subject.
Simply put, the more states that are considering the legislation, the better, and the odds increase that one of them will eventually pull the trigger.
Will Illinois legalize online gambling this summer? That’s no sure thing. But whether it does or not, the existence of legislation is a good thing for the future of iGaming.