Languishing Illinois online-poker bill receives renewed committee assignment

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: February 7, 2024 12:48 pm EST

An online-gambling bill introduced in early 2023 in Illinois’ current two-year legislarive session has received a renewed House committee assignment after languishing without action for nearly months.

House Bill 2239 (HB2239) was initially introduced by Rep. Edgar Gonzalez, Jr. (D-Chicago) a full year ago. HB2239 received its initial reading at that time and was sent to the Illinois House Rules Committee, a mandatory first stop for any new legislation.

Three weeks later, at the end of February 2023, HB2239 was sent to the House Gaming Committee, a more topic-specific committee, but it was shoved to the side as the committee considered other matters deemed more pertintent to the state. Just ten days into March, the Gaming Committee essentially tabled consideration on the matter for the remainder of 2023 by re-referring it back to the Rules Committee.

The bill has a close parallel in Illinois Senate Bill 1656 (SB1656), which was also introduced in early 2023 but was shelved for many months and has only recently been reactivated for legislative consideration. SB1656, which is sponsored by Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin), was re-referred in mid-January to the Illinois Senate’s Executive Committee.

Both HB2239 and SB1656 contain similar regulatory language. The twin bills, both called the Internet Gaming Act, would authorize most forms of online casino-style gaming, including online poker. Approved licenses would be able to offer up to three online skins.

Sen. Castro’s involvement as the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill may indicate the backing of the measures by Caesars Entertainment, which via it Caesars Interactive Entertainment (CIE) entity also owns the World Series of Poker brand. Elgin’s Grand Victoria Casino was purchased by Eldorado Resorts in 2018, and in 2020 Eldorado acquired all of Caesars Entertainment in a massive $17 billion deal.

Since the 2020 deal, the Grand Vic has been heavily rebranded as a Caesars property. In 2022, the Grand Victoria invited Chris Moneymaker to headline the debut of an expanded and relocated poker room (photo above), which also coincided with the the arrival of the WSOP’s Circuit tour for its first Illinois stop. Sen. Castro was part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony (fourth from right, above).

Featured image source: Haley Hintze