Illinois online poker bill to receive renewed consideration

Illinois postcard
David Schneid
Posted on: July 30, 2021 12:53 PDT

A broad online-gambling bill that languished in an Illinois House committee earlier this year will receive renewed consideration during a special fall session. Proponents of House Bill 3142, titled the Internet Gaming Act, promise debate on the measure in October.

Illinois state representatives Robert Rita and Jonathan Carroll introduced HB3142 in February. The bill cleared a technical Rules Committee hurdle weeks later, and then went to the House's Executive Committee in March. HB3142 stalled there, despite an April hearing where the measure received broad support despite anti-gambling opposition.

HB3142 specifically authorizes several forms of online gambling. The authorized list would cover online versions of slots and casino table games, including online poker. Land of Lincoln legislators approved sports betting separately in 2019.

Next step in Illinois' multi-phase gambling expansion

According to ChicagoNow's Paul Banks, the Internet Gaming Act faces little hardcore opposition. Instead, the bill's possible passage hinges on recruiting neutral legislators to the pro-online gambling side. Banks correctly notes that online gambling would provide a new revenue stream for the cash-strapped state. The issue has other facets, however.

Rather than expand into many new forms of gambling at once, Illinois legislatives have adopted a "one step at a time" approach. Online casino gambling was among several issues discussed in 2019, but legislators dropped it in favor of sports betting instead. Illinois also authorized licensing for six new land-based casinos. The state's approved locations include a controversial downtown-Chicago casino site that remains in limbo.

Illinois' struggling pari-mutuel industry joined the stakeholder battles as well, as did the state's bars and restaurants, which may offer a small number of video-gambling terminals. All the conflicting causes and possible gambling expansion left online-poker legalization adrift.

Best chance for approval since 2017

Renewed debate to authorize Illinois online poker during the October special session gives the game its best chance since 2017. That year's House Bill 479 sought to jointly authorize online poker and daily fantasy sports (DFS).

2017's HB479 passed several committee votes and cleared a full House vote by a wide margin. The bill stalled in the state's Senate, however, amid the competing stakeholder battles.

The online gambling issue resurfaced in 2019. However, the state's pols split DFS away from online poker to join the popular sportsbetting measure. That left online poker waiting for another legislative window. 2021's special fall session may be that opportunity.

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