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Online Gambling Regs on the Table in Illinois

16 May 2012 by Devon Chappell

Add the State of Illinois to a growing ledger of U.S. States considering the prospects of legalizing online gambling to one extent or another. With just over two weeks before a scheduled adjournment at the end of May, and amidst debate over Medicaid and pension reforms, Chicago Democrat and Illinois Senate President, John Cullerton, has introduced legislation to create a Division of Internet Gaming within the Illinois State Lottery. Not going so far to introduce legislation to regulate online casinos, per say, Cullerton said his goal is to make Illinois nimble enough to adjust to the reality of online gambling and position itself to capture the widest audience possible before federal regulation is implemented.

Cullerton, like several other State politicians, believes there is great value in being one of the first State’s to regulate online gambling. First, Cullerton believes that the sooner Illinois establishes itself in the iGaming industry, the more advantage it will have for long-term success and making a stake at what could be hundreds of millions of dollars. As first reported by CBS News, in his letter to Governor Pat Quinn and other legislators, Cullerton said, “The state could organize the first major poker pool, garner worldwide popularity, and position itself as a hub for multi-state and international iGaming”.

Secondly, Cullerton believes that it is imperative to pass regulations before the federal government takes the lead. Currently, there is legislation pending in the U.S. Senate that, if passed, could preclude State’s from reaping financial benefits if motions are not already underway if and when a federal law to regulate online gambling is passed.

While Cullerton has support from some of his colleagues, like Illinois Senate Gaming Committee Chairman, Terry Link – who cited Cullerton’s legsilation as having “unlimited potential” that would not cut into business – others, like Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, have expressed caution rushing into a vote on Cullerton’s proposal. Nor does Governor Quinn appear too keen on the idea of expanding gambling – in any form, at that. Having already expressed opposition to a proposal that would expand casino gambling and permit racetracks to offer slot machines, Governor Quinn’s office openly stated they will not take a position on Cullerton’s proposal so as not to distract from more pressing issues – namely, health care and public employee pensions.

Despite Cullerton’s pressing, his proposal will very likely have to wait until the Senate commences once again. Whether or not this “delay” will put Illinois at a disadvantage in the long-term remains to be seen. In the meantime, Cullerton can rest assured that the Illinois State Lottery is liking this whole internet thing. Since March of this year, when online lottery sales went live in Illinois ¬†for the first time, the State has brought in almost $2 million in online sales alone.

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