Legislature returns to action in January; Illinois Senate passed a bill this spring

Illinois Online Gambling, Fantasy Sports Bill Will Have To Wait Until 2018

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The Illinois legislature wrapped up its work for 2017 on Thursday, completing its second part of a veto session.

The session came and went without action on a bill dealing with online poker, casino games and daily fantasy sports. That means it’s officially “wait until next year” for Illinois on all these fronts.

What happened in Illinois? Nothing

As 2017 came to a close, a handful of states had a realistic chance of making progress on online gambling legislation.

While Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online gambling, New Hampshire punted for now.

Illinois loomed as a longshot during six days of action this fall. That session was primarily designed for the legislature to override any bills vetoed by the governor. However, it also provides a brief window for pending legislation to be considered.

Several bills that had advanced in the legislature dealing with DFS, iGaming or both sprang to life shortly before the veto session began. That gave hope that one of them could reach the finish line.

But ultimately the bills remained stagnant with no action or votes being taken on any of them.

Bills come back for 2018

Here’s the good news for online gambling and DFS proponents, however: The same bills in play now don’t have to start over.

Active legislation is carried into the 2018 session, which starts in January for both the House and the Senate.

The bill that has advanced the furthest and would take the least amount of effort to pass is the one that passed the Senate earlier this year. That bill — H 479 — is in the House Rules Committee and could be as few as three steps from becoming law. (Those steps are approval of the bill the Senate passed by the committee, a full vote on the House floor and the signature of Gov. Bruce Rauner.)

Of course, nothing is that simple, when it comes to gaming or Illinois politics. The political machinations of the legislature may necessitate a different bill advancing, and there are no shortage of other bills that might be in play.

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A realistic chance in Illinois?

Handicapping a bill’s chances in Illinois given the contentious nature of politics in the state is largely a futile endeavor.

Still, a bill easily won approval in the Senate on short notice this year. And like many states, Illinois could use the revenue that an online gambling law would provide via both taxes and licensing fees.

The fact that an iGaming expansion is tied to DFS both helps and hinders the effort, in some ways. Lobbying from the DFS industry, via DraftKings and FanDuel, is not likely to ramp down in Illinois because of the legal climate in the state.

Whether a bill will ultimately pass next year is unknown. But the issue will certainly be in play again in 2018.

- 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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