Illinois Is In The Middle Of Budget Crisis, With Gambling Expansion On The Agenda

Illinois Online Gambling Legalization Looks Like A Long Shot For 2017

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Illinois will consider a massive gambling expansion package, but it does not appear that online gambling will be in the mix, according to a recent report.

GamblingCompliance reported (paywall) that the author of a gambling bill did not include online gambling; GC painted a pessimistic picture for its legalization in the short term.

Illinois and the budget

The backstory of Illinois starts with the overall political situation, in which Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-controlled statehouse are at odds. The state has been locked in a budget battle for more than a year and a half, and the state started 2017 without a budget.

The legislature is once again trying to tackle the budget, starting with a package of 13 bills meant to end the budget impasse.

Illinois and the gambling bill

Part of that package of bills is a piece of gambling legislation.

Here’s how the Chicago Sun-Times summed it up:

Gambling expansion: Similar to a contentious proposal from previous years, the plan would create a land-based casino in Chicago and add riverboat casinos in Lake County, Rockford, the south suburbs of Chicago, Danville, and in Williamson County, in southern Illinois, as well as giving horse racing tracks a piece of the action by permitting slot machines at Arlington Heights, Cicero and Collinsville.

But the gambling bill itself is controversial; some believe the casino industry is already at a saturation point. New casino licenses could cannibalize revenue from existing gaming facilities.

Illinois and online gambling

GC reported that online gambling was not included because of opposition from Rauner. Illinois had already been a relative underdog for legalizing online gambling in 2017 in comparison to states like Pennsylvania.

Still, there are proponents of online gambling in the state, and it’s a way to generate revenue in a state with a budget crisis. Online gambling is often a complementary product for land-based casinos, offering a revenue stream and a way of activating customers that does not cannibalize existing revenue.

At least one Illinois casino interest is already in the regulated online gambling market in New Jersey.

That interest is Rush Street Gaming, which owns Rivers Casino just outside Chicago. Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino, also owned by Rush Street, runs an online gambling site in NJ.

How much Rush Street, or anyone, is willing to push for online gambling in the current climate remains a variable. But it doesn’t seem like iGaming’s chances are good in the short term.

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Illinois and DFS

Also of interest in Illinois is a particularly contentious battle to legalize daily fantasy sports.

Regulatory legislation died last year, at least in part due to the state’s casino lobby pushing back against regulation of the DFS industry.

DFS does not appear as a part of the larger gambling package, and is likely to crop up in 2017 as a standalone bill. The most recent effort on the DFS front would actually make DFS explicitly illegal in the state.

The state’s attorney general, Lisa Madigan, already said she believes DFS is illegal gambling under state law.

- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.
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