Illinois still grappling with budget during special session, while iGaming languishes

Hopes For Illinois Online Gambling And Daily Fantasy Sports Bill Dimming For Short Term

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The possibility of Illinois legalizing online gambling and daily fantasy sports in the state during a special session going on now is looking worse by the day.

What we know on Illinois iGaming and DFS: Not much

The past week has been shrouded in mystery as far as the prospects a hybrid online gambling/DFS bill, and a separate standalone DFS bill. Here’s what’s happened (or not happened, as the case may be):

  • The legislature reconvened last week, and legislation related to iGaming quickly stirred to life.
  • A hearing to consider legislation — iGaming included — in the House Executive Committee slated for Saturday was moved to Tuesday.
  • Tuesday’s hearing was postponed to Wednesday.
  • The Executive Committee met Wednesday but took no action on either H 479 — the iGaming/DFS bill — or S 1531 — the DFS only bill. The latter bill was mentioned briefly in committee on Wednesday but not heard or voted upon. There are two House amendments proposed for the DFS bill, one of which would only take effect if H 479 is also passed. (Interestingly, one of the amendments requires DFS operators to have physical servers located in Illinois.)

This is the most concrete thing that has come out of the capitol building on the issue:

Beyond that, even chatter on the ground in Illinois seems unsure of either bill’s prospects, especially with just a few days left in the special session.

The Illinois Senate already passed the iGaming/DFS bill at the end of May.

The Illinois budget appears to be the problem

Conventional wisdom appears to be this: The iGaming/DFS bill is not going anywhere without a larger budget deal. That being said, things can change quickly as negotiations go on behind the scenes.

Illinois, of course, has been mired in a budget debacle for the past few years. Lawmakers in the state are in danger of not passing a budget for the third straight year.

House Democrats unveiled their plan for the budget this week, but it’s not clear it has the support needed to pass. The Senate already passed a revenue bill last month.

At stake is Illinois becoming the first state to have its debt downgraded to “junk” level if it doesn’t pass a budget.

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Where does that leave iGaming/DFS?

For both, the status quo would persist.

DFS operators DraftKings and FanDuel serve the state, and that is unlikely to change in the short term. Its legality remains murky because of a 2015 attorney general opinion.

For online gambling, it will continue to happen in the state, albeit in an unregulated fashion, via offshore websites. The state will continue to miss out on the possibility of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that could help ease the budget shortfall.

Will the statehouse act on iGaming and DFS now or any time soon? That’s a question we’re going to have to wait to find out the answer to.

- 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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