Illinois Online Poker Still in Play for November

Illinois Online Poker Still in Play for November

Most states that examined online poker in early 2018 have abandoned it for the year, as legislative sessions ended and no plans were made to revisit online gaming at all in the next few months. Illinois, it appears, is not one of those states.

There wasn’t much hope placed in Illinois lawmakers this year, as they were completely silent for the first few months and then teased the topic but made no progress. However, they may be serious this time, as the Gaming Subcommittee Sub-Chairperson announced two hearings over the next few months.

While no votes are expected until after the November elections, the establishment of two separate forums in which to discuss online poker and other forms of gambling expansion means that SB0007 may be back on the table.

Two Hearings

The track record of hearings for online poker and related bills in Illinois is not a good one. A significant hearing in the summer of 2017 put former PPA Executive Director John Pappas on a plane to Springfield, prepared to testify on behalf of online poker. But the hearing was cancelled on the day it was supposed to take place. Another hearing was on the schedule for late May of this year, but that one didn’t happen, either, as the legislative session closed two days later.

However, there is a high demand to discuss various forms of gambling expansion for Illinois this year, so State Representative Robert Rita took the initiative to set two hearings – one will be August 22 in Chicago, and the second will be on October 3 in Springfield.

According to WCSJ News, the primary focus of the hearings will be to address the possibility of online sports betting, but all forms of online gambling seem to be on the agenda. The hearings will allow lawmakers to gain a better understanding of an issues that need to be addressed before lawmakers return to the capitol in November – after the mid-term elections – for their fall veto session.

Seven a Lucky Number?

The bill currently in play regarding gambling expansion is SB0007, which technically dates back to January 2017 but didn’t take its current shape with sponsors like Rita until mid-May 2018, just after the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA and authorized states to legalize sports betting. Thusly, the latest amendments to SB0007 include sports betting, along with daily fantasy sports (DFS) and online poker and casino games.

Its current sponsors are Rita, along with his fellow State Representatives Rita Mayfield, Chad Hays, and Litesa Wallace, and State Senators Terry Link, Dave Syverson, Mattie Hunter, and Donne Trotter.

In May, SB0007 went from the Executive Committee to the Gaming Subcommittee with a deadline for action of May 31. On May 25, the latest amendment was filed, and the updated bill went to the Rules then Executive Committees, where the amendment was adopted. That amendment added sections for the Fantasy Sports Contest Act, Sports Wagering Act, and Internet Gaming Act, all of which will require more detail to be added before any legislative votes. Finally, on May 31, the bill was re-referred to Rules.

Glimmers of Hope

There are reasons for online poker fans and supporters to be hopeful.

The desire for sports betting is strong, and there is also wide-ranging support for DFS. Those two issues are very likely to be discussed favorably at the hearings, as the casinos and racetracks throughout the state are especially keen to add sports betting to their revenue sources.

Illinois is no stranger to gambling and has few qualms about expanding it for state revenue purposes. Lawmakers have consistently taken note of the benefits – employment and tourism, in addition to revenue – enough to allow for more casinos and even video gaming terminals in the past decade. Adding online poker and casino games to the repertoire is something that many of the casinos already support, as they have seen the benefits to casinos in Atlantic City.

The proactive move from Rita to set two hearings prior to the November legislative session is a good sign. While other hearings have been cancelled, at least one of the two on the schedule now have a chance of happening and generating positive discussions that could further SB0007.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has been followed the US market closely for the last 7 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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