Illinois Looks Toward Online Poker Legislation

February 27, 2014

With at least 10 states looking towards online gambling legalization to fill in tax revenue gaps, the race is on for the fourth state to pass regulations and take online wagers from resident gamblers. Following in the footsteps of Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, Illinois may soon be added to the list of states that have legalized online gambling in one form or another, whether it be Internet poker or Internet casino regulations.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D) of Chicago says that he is hopeful there may be an online gambling expansion package in the works that could be forged by the end of the spring legislative session. The potential for fresh funds feeding into state coffers is an enticing offer to Cullerton, who has been pushing the matter among fellow statesmen for almost two years.

Back in 2012, Cullerton urged Governor Pat Quinn and other legislative heads to attach online poker to the bartering and negotiating that goes on at the annual end-of-session.

A Senate committee hearing recently heard the testimony from Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas, who told the committee that regulated online poker would in fact establish more income for the state; however, he warned that players who are already participating in online poker will be subject to tighter regulations than they may be currently accustomed to.

In his testimony, Pappas also warned of the effects of illegalizing the activity: “Prohibition will only play into the hands of the criminal element.”

While Cullerton is hopeful, realistically, he knows that online poker regulation will be a hard sale when it comes to strong opposition from horse track and casino operators.

He told reporters, “There’s a lot of complications about how it affects the existing gaming industry. That seems to be where the hang up might be right now.”

Illinois’s temporary income tax will expire mid-next fiscal year, so Cullerton hopes that online poker could be the answer to bridging the $1.5 billion gap that the temporary tax expiration will leave. He hopes the success stories from other states that are already offering online gambling legally and reaping the benefits will influence legislators when it comes time to the finalize and pass the budget. Industry advocates are estimating the Illinois online poker market to bring in around $200 million annually, based on population and trends in other online-poker-legal states.

Despite the fact that many believe the market is too flooded, with individual states passing intrastate legislature, for now most markets will be limited to the population of each state. However, Delaware and Nevada have just this week signed an interstate agreement that will allow them to share players across state borders. Both states are optimistic that more states will join in the multi-state compact, further expanding the market share.

However, claiming that the online poker market is flooded in a state that doesn’t offer regulated online poker is inaccurate. Studies done of New Jersey specifically show that a large percentage of players who were currently playing at offshore, unregulated sites when online poker became legal within the state made the switch over to the New Jersey-regulated sites and more are expected to follow suit.


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