In a letter to state lawmakers (PDF), Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is pushing for the state to legalize and regulate online casinos. Cullerton introduced an amendment to House Bill 4148 and says “The proposed legislation creates a new Division of Internet Gaming within the Illinois Lottery to further capture new revenues available in the iGaming marketplace in a manner that protects consumers, provides logical and responsible regulation, and advances the public good.”
Cullerton’s letter further states “We estimate that the potential new revenues to the state are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. If enacted, the Division’s iGaming platform could be up and running in FY 2013 and millions of dollars that are now bet through offshore sites could be captured within our state.”
The bill is actually a lengthy amendment to a seemingly unrelated bill that would amend the property tax code to allow tax liens on properties that were erroneously awarded homestead exemptions. As usual, any bill on any topic is a candidate for late-session manipulation. This is a tactic seen before, such as when the Federal UIGEA was tacked on to a port safety bill.
In an effort to push the amendment through, Cullerton urges lawmakers to act quickly in the face of legislation “pending before the U.S. Senate that would preclude Illinois and other states from reaping the benefits of iGaming.”
I find this last comment to be the most interesting of the piece. Cullerton refers to legislation at the Federal level that would prohibit iGaming in states that lack a regulatory framework. Any bill with a provision to that effect is likely not a real threat, since the lawmakers in Washington continue to do very little of substance. I cannot see any legislation addressing even peripheral issues of internet gaming being passed in Congress. Nonetheless, in Illinois, the current session ends May 31st, so we may see action there in a hurry.