Illinois is proving a good example of what many of the 50 states may eventually experience. The problem is that internet gambling issues do not exist in isolation but coexist with brick-and-mortar gambling issues… and a myriad of other issues besides.
The Illinois legislature has four days until its target adjournment date, but there remains an unresolved budget crisis. The State risks suffering a lowered credit rating if legislators cannot fix failing programs for public employee pensions and Medicaid obligations.
Throughout the current legislative session, legislators and lobbyists for the gaming and horse racing industries have conferred with the governor’s office over the prospect of gambling expansion. Language related to internet gambling has never been part of the brick-and-mortar bill, but internet gambling has surely been part of the discussion.
As for the brick-and-mortar gambling bill, I pass no judgment but refer to various opinion articles published in the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois.
The SJ-R itself takes an official position against brick-and-mortar expansion:
We, too, have opposed this bill (SB 1849), mostly because it purports to turn the law of supply-and-demand on its head. Casinos in Illinois have been struggling since the recession hit. Demand has fallen drastically. This bill claims that opening five more casinos, plus turning horse racing tracks into casinos, suddenly will create 20,000 new jobs and bring in $200 million to state coffers annually. We’re just not buying that all that wealth is not now reaching the state because people can’t find enough casinos. (Our Opinion: More gambling a bad bet (SJ-R)).
But see also: Point: Gambling expansion bill is based on ‘supply and demand’ by Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, deputy House majority leader. And also: Counterpoint: Gambling expansion bill is a continuation of failed policies by Anita Bedell, executive director, Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, Springfield.
On May 15, Senator John Cullerton, President of the Senate, offered a separate bill that would legalize internet gambling. This bill, HB 4148, proposed to give broad market and decision-making control to the Illinois Lottery. The bill explained that the Lottery would manage an “internet gaming platform,” but it lacked clear language indicating whether casinos or horse racing companies could participate. They could not have been happy about it.
But then on May 23 the brick-and-mortar gambling expansion bill was approved by the House. And then two days later on May 25, Senator Cullerton revised the internet gambling bill to clearly specify that Illinois casinos and horse racing operators can become licensed to participate in the Lottery’s gaming platform. The revised bill just might make enough people happy.
Nonetheless, there is disappointingly sparse amount of mainstream media attention being given to the internet gambling legislation. The brick-and-mortar bill continues to generate controversy and opinion, but the importance of internet gambling to the discussion is not talked about.
Governor Quinn is silent about internet gaming, but he does continue to publicly oppose the brick-and-mortar expansion. A veto threat could be a somewhat viable negotiating chip on some issue or another. See: Quinn says he can’t support gambling expansion bill (SJ-R) See: Quinn dismisses gambling as ‘shiny’ distraction (SJ-R)
Author Bradley Vallerius is an Illinois attorney specializing in gaming and video gaming licensing and compliance.