Those hoping for online poker in Illinois will have to wait a bit longer. The issue of land-based casino expansion would have to be addressed before legalizing the online game.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton plainly told reporters last week that online poker in the Land of Lincoln will happen, but only after live-casino expansion has been complete.
In an interview with reporters last week, Cullerton said of online gambling, “It’s something that’s going to be here. There’s three states that have it.” As far as when that will happen, “I think, though, that we cannot take that issue up until we resolve whether or not we’re going to have new casinos in Illinois and that again is very difficult to predict.”
The issue of live casino expansion has been hotly debated since last year. In May 2013, a bill was submitted that would have seen five new casinos built in Illinois. That proposal failed to reach a vote.
This year, there are two plans in the works. One proposal is similar to the 2013 measure that calls for five new casinos, including one in Chicago. The other calls for only a casino in the windy city with revenue from that property split between the city and state.
Ironically, Cullerton does not support gambling, but he does see the financial impact. According to Cullerton, “we have gambling in Illinois – it’s called Hammond, Indiana. Two thirds of the license plates over there are from Illinois. So we’re losing money. We’re helping fund the schools in Indiana, not in Illinois.”
This year’s Gubernatorial race could have a major impact on casino expansion in the state. Gov. Pat Quinn said he would address the issue of casino expansion once the state’s pension shortfall had been address. A pension reform bill was passed in December.
However, the incumbent Governor faces a stiff challenge from Republican Bruce Rauner. The race is expected to be a close one with many Illinois residents blaming Quinn for the states financial problems. Rauner is also seen as a much more charismatic leader than Quinn, making it a tough road to re-election.
Realistically, it is difficult to see the issue of live casino expansion move forward this year due to the election, but motivated politicians could make it happen. Then we will see how serious that state officials are about online gambling and whether it truly is inevitable.