Earlier this month, it looked like Illinois was about to become the 5th state to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports (DFS). HB3655, a bill designed to do just that received narrow approval from the State Senate, who voted 32-22 in favor. The measure was since frozen as Illinois Casinos push for a DFS bill with more comprehensive language, allowing them to incorporate online casino and poker games as well.
The motion to freeze the legislation was filed by Democratic Senator and supporter of the DFS bill, Antonio Munoz. Initially, there was confusion as to why he would freeze a successful measure he supported, but the intent soon became clear.
Giving local casino operators the power to run daily fantasy sports is a positive, but it’s not enough to satiate their appetite. Before the DFS bill goes any further, Illinois casinos and the political interests that represent them would like to expand the bill’s terminology to give casinos more iGaming options, including online casino and poker games.
The real question is, will amending the current legislation cause it to stall to the point of extinction? Or worse, could it obliterate the median amount of support it already received in the Senate, killing the effort altogether?
So far, the Senate seems to be split on whether comprehensive online gambling is the right thing for the state.
Support for Online Casino, Poker Regulation
“If you’re going to have a conversation about legalizing Internet gaming, that should be a comprehensive law,” said Paul Gaynor, co-founder of G&R Public Law & Strategies representing the interests of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. He contends that some Illinois casinos would prefer a wider range of online gambling opportunities.
Senator Laura Murphy of Des Plaines agreed. “I would suggest that if we are going to expand gaming to this magnitude in the state that we have a comprehensive bill,” she said. “A bill that holds everyone accountable to the same standards.”
Opposition to Amending Illinois DFS Bill
On the opposing side, Chicago Democratic Senator Kwame Raoul, who originally introduced HB3655, said that giving casinos the right to operate daily fantasy sports was a compromise in and of itself, and that sweeping changes to current gambling laws were never the goal.
“With any bills that come anywhere close to gaming, everybody has their parochial interests that they pile on,” explained Sen. Raoul. He said this bill was born to address the opinion issued by Attorney General Lisa Madigan late last year, in which she determined DFS is illegal gambling in Illinois, and should be regulated by law.
History of Illinois Online Gambling Debate
Illinois has been slowly but steadily working its way towards the authorization of online gambling activities for several years now. In 2013, a study by H2Gambling determined that the state would generate as much as $700 million under the right conditions, which included legalization of online casino and poker games, tied in with a shared liquidity compact between other iGaming states like Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.
That prompted a hearing on internet poker in 2014, and discussions have continued to progress between Illinois officials ever since. The state already supplies online lottery and horse race wagering, which is considered by many to be a catalyst for the eventual regulation of more extensive online gambling.