Illinois and Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bills Could Receive Votes in 2014
While “Restoration of the Wire Act” is being discussed in both houses of the U.S. Congress, state legilatures continue to consider legalizing online gambling. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Illinois are discussing bills which would make intra-state online gaming legal, while one Pennsylvania politician wants to put people who gamble on the Internet in jail.
Illinois Gaming Laws
Gambling could soon be legal in Illinois, though its leading proponent says a new law would face many obstacles. John Cullerton, a leading Democratic lawmaker on the state level, would like to pass pro-gaming legislation similar to the laws in New Jersey. A key factor could be whether the local land-based gambling ventures will provide their support or not.
While Nevada and New Jersey rightly get more press as leaders in gaming regulation, Illinois has been a groundbreaker in interactive gaming. In late March of 2012, Illinois became the first state to legalize online lottery sales.
What people might forget is the new post-2011 interpretation of the UIGEA and Wire Act came about because New York and Illinois jointly asked the Justice Department for an opinion on those laws. The legalization process in Illinois lotteries came quickly after the U.S. Justice Department rendered its pro-gaming opinion. On March 25, 2012, Illinois launched its first website offering online lottery sales.
Intrastate Gambling is Allowed under the UIGEA
Lawmakers in Springfield noticed something about the much-maligned UIGEA law that others might have missed: the legislation carved out a niche for intra-state gambling, even if those activities are re-routed across state lines. Though electronic gambling between states is illegal, it is reserved for the individual state to decide whether to allow people inside its boundaries to gamble online. The stipulation is these activities must take place with a company inside the state. That was why Illinois and New York asked for a clarification from the DoJ, because this loophole had sat there unused since 2006.
In 2014, Democratic State Senate President John Cullerton is seeking to pass new laws to make online casinos and card rooms legal. When asked about his stance on such laws back in February 2014, Cullerton said new laws were a recognition of current realities, not an attempt to increase activities. Cullerton said about the current absence of regulation, “People are already gambling and we’re not making any of the money.”
John Pappas of the Poker Players Alliance estimates that iGaming in Illinois would bring in $200 million to the state.
Pennsylvania Anti-Gambling Laws
In Pennsylvania, State Representative Mario Scavello wants to take a major step in the other direction. Scavello is calling for a law that would not only punish operators and the businesses which support their activities, but would put online gamblers in jail. The first violation would cost a gambler $250 and up to 90 days in jail. A second violation of the law would meet with a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail.
The law received howls from pro-gaming groups across the nation, who pointed out that prohibition of popular activities in the past has met with widespread breaking of the law and an influx of cash to criminal organizations. The Prohibition laws of the 1920’s are thought to have led to the formation of the Italian mafia, as many Americans were willing to break the law in order to enjoy a drink of alcohol. The 1980’s saw billions of dollars flow into the hands of Colombian criminals, while the War on Drugs sent thousands of drug dealers to prison. In either case, the underworld whom authorities were hoping to squelch grew richer and more powerful.
Those against State Senator Scavello’s proposals have criticized his plans as costly in other ways, too. They pointed out the Republican state senator has not yet stated how Pennysylvanians would pay for the additional tens of thousands of citizens who would go into the jail system for such offenses, or the law enforcement personnel needed to learn about and punish these activities going on in citizens’s homes.
Pennsylvania Resolution SR 273
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania State Senate approved resolution SR 273, which set a study of the feasibility of online gaming in Pennyslvaia by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. The specific parameters the senate set down in SR 273 was for the committee to “analyze the potential impact of online gaming on the gaming industry, including the impact online gaming may have on the Commonwealth’s tax revenues and employment at the Commonwealth’s casinos.”
Voters appear to be against Mario Scavello’s opinions. A Quinnipiac University poll found that 62% of all Pennsylvanians would like to see the hobby legalized.
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