Online gambling fate appears tied to daily fantasy sports in Illinois

It’s A Longshot, But Illinois Online Gambling Has Chance To Pass As Legislature Wraps Up

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Online gambling has been a topic of discussion in a number of states during the first half of 2017. It hasn’t been on the radar in Illinois — until now.

Two Illinois bills have proposed amendments with online gambling in them as the statehouse nears its scheduled adjournment on Wednesday.

Do either of these have a chance of passing? Common sense says no, but it’s at least a possibility in a state where politics are always volatile.

Illinois and online gambling

There are at least two possible avenues for online gambling to move forward. First is S 208, to which an amendment has been filed that would legalize online gambling in the state. That bill is in the Senate.

Getting too deep into the weeds on a bill that has a questionable chance of passing isn’t a terribly useful exercise. However, the bill calls for a $10 million licensing fee to operate online gambling, and a base tax rate on gross gaming revenue of 15 percent. (That’s a far sight lower than the tax rate for iGaming that the Pennsylvania Senate passed last week.)

At the same time, what appears to be an identical large gaming amendment was filed with another bill — S 1805. That bill (sans the online gambling) already passed the Senate, so it’s now in the House.

Interestingly, fantasy sports legalization is also in amendments filed for both bills. More on that later.

All of the activity comes as Illinois’ elected officials try to reach agreement on a budget, something it has failed to do for a few years now.

Illinois has flirted with iGaming before

Illinois has never seriously considered online gambling, but it isn’t new to the game, either.

The legalization of online gambling has at least been on the table in the past, even if it didn’t get serious consideration.

Still, the state remained a longshot to consider online gambling this year. Illinois is one of a handful of states with online lottery.

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Fantasy sports is also in the mix

The daily fantasy sports industry is also hoping to complete a Hail Mary as the legislature nears its end for 2017. A third bill — S 1667 — also has a filed amendment with fantasy sports regulation, but no online gambling.

Efforts to legalize and regulate DFS operators like DraftKings and FanDuel date back more than two years, with no new law to show for it. The stakes for DFS are higher than in other states, as the state attorney general ruled that it constitutes illegal gambling. (DraftKings and FanDuel still operate in the state, despite that opinion.)

DraftKings — probably not coincidentally — has reportedly flirted with putting an office in Chicago as the legislature winds down.

Reading between the lines on DFS and iGaming

Why all the activity on online gambling? Here’s what we know:

One possible scenario: A last-minute deal is being brokered to get Rivers to ease off its DFS position by legalizing online gambling. Illinois could use the revenue from iGaming — an activity that is going on illegally in the state to some degree — anyway.

Is that what’s going on beyond a shadow of a doubt? Online Poker Report does not have that insight. But it’s one explanation of why online gambling is suddenly in the mix in Illinois, longshot or no.

- 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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