Online Gambling Out of Illinois Bill; May be Spun Off Separately

Illinois Capitol Building

iGaming Removed from Illinois Casino Measure

When a bill expanding land-based casinos in the state of Illinois goes to a full Senate vote there in a few weeks, it is expected to pass rather easily but if it does, it will be without a provision that would have brought Internet-based wagering to the Land of Lincoln.

News came this week from a blog chronicling the goings-on in the Illinois statehouse,, that as part of a contract negotiation between Arlington Racetrack and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ITHA), a provision that would have allowed Illinois residents to access online poker sites as well as other types of online gambling would be taken out of the legislation.

It is said that the dispute between the ITHA and the racetrack centered around a part of the legislation that would have allowed racetracks to offer online gambling without having to use the proceeds to fund purses.

The bill, SB1739, will put five new land-based casinos in the state, one of which is proposed for Chicago. Earlier this week we told you about a plan suggested by world-renowned architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill to develop a polluted abandoned hospital site into a multi-use casino and entertainment complex that would also house President Obama’s library.

It would appear that fans of online poker in Illinois needn’t despair just yet, as Capitol Fax reported that the President of the Illinois Senate plans to introduce an Internet gaming measure separately. A date when such legislation might be expected was not provided, however the current legislative session will wrap up at the end of May.

Commenters responding to Capitol Fax’s report ranged from unsupportive of any sort of casino proliferation in the state, to those who did not back a Chicago casino, with some others expressing pleasure that the Internet gambling provision may have a future as its own separate bill.

Supporters of online poker regulation have long argued that the game is one of skill and not based in chance, and therefore should be viewed differently from other forms of betting, like many classic casino games in which the house enjoys a distinct advantage. This sentiment was echoed by one Illinois poker fan on Capitol Fax’s post, who believes that any legislation brought forth in the state regarding online gambling ought to address poker separately from casino.

“Ipoker should get its own bill away from typical ‘casino games.’ Poker is a game of skill money is just the way to keep score,” the commenter wrote.

Incidentally, the removal of the online provision from SB 1739 most likely increases its chances that it will be passed and ultimately signed into law by the state’s Democratic Governor, Pat Quinn. Quinn, who has been at times reticent and at other times vague on the issue of casino expansion in Illinois, reportedly felt uncomfortable with the Internet component of the bill.

In fact, when SB 1739 was first introduced last month, some observers speculated that the Internet language may have only been inserted as a bargaining chip that could be later removed, mostly as a means of appeasing Quinn.  Be sure to check back for updates as we continue to follow the progress in Springfield.