Illinois Senate already passed iGaming bill; House is up next

It’s Do Or Die For Illinois Online Gambling Bill This Week

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If Illinois is going to legalize online gambling this year, the effort starts in earnest this week, as the House is set to act on a bill already passed by the state Senate.

What happens on Tuesday for Illinois iGaming

The House Executive Committee will convene on Tuesday.

On the committee agenda is H 479, which would legalize and regulate both online gambling and daily fantasy sports in the state. (Also on the docket is S 1531, which would only legalize DFS.)

There will be testimony at the hearing, although we don’t know how much:

Regardless, the bill being considered on Tuesday is a positive development, as it could have been mothballed quite easily. Instead, the House has decided to take it up during its special session.

The environment in Illinois

The state legislature adjourned at the end of May. But lawmakers had failed to pass a budget yet again after a couple of years of futility on that front. That led to Gov. Bruce Rauner convening a special session of the statehouse.

Lawmakers returned to the capital of Springfield last week, although little public momentum toward a budget deal has happened. The session is only scheduled to last 10 days, so the bill’s fate should be known this week.

One piece of the puzzle in potential negotiations in the state appears to be iGaming, which has a chance to provide hundreds of millions in tax revenue for the state in the coming years.

While the bill could win approval in committee, it’s not clear if House Speaker Mike Madigan or Rauner is on board. Both would be crucial to the legislation’s prospects.

Of course, divining what is happening behind the scenes in any legislature — Illinois especially — is difficult at best. But things could be clearer after Tuesday’s hearing.

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How we got here on Illinois iGaming

Illinois hadn’t been talking about online gambling at all in 2017, nor had it tackled the subject much previously.

But a late effort cropped up at the end of the regular session last month, in what appears to be an effort to appease opponents of daily fantasy sports regulation in the state. The bill would legalize DFS, which some gaming interests in the state oppose, while offering the carrot of legalized iGaming.

That effort gained traction quickly, with the Senate approving it 42-10. The bill moved to the House, but not in time for it be considered before adjournment.

That gets us to Tuesday’s hearing, when the fate of iGaming in Illinois could be determined.

- 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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