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Illinois Online Casino Legislation Stalls

Dive into the latest developments of online casino legislation in Illinois as the state's legislative session approaches its end. Despite efforts from legislators, the bill faces challenges amidst a stable budgetary situation.
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Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: May 7, 2024

The importance of legislation

With only three weeks remaining in the Illinois legislative session, the topic of online casinos has notably been absent from public discourse in the state. Despite efforts from legislators like Illinois Rep. Dan Didech and Sen. Cristina Castro, online casino legislation has yet to gain substantial traction in the state’s legislative chambers.

 

Key Developments:

  1. Lack of Momentum: Despite efforts from legislators like Rep. Dan Didech and Sen. Cristina Castro, online casino legislation in Illinois has not gained significant traction. Rep. Didech, chair of the House Gaming Committee, held one hearing but did not include the bill on the agenda, citing a lack of momentum for iGaming this session.
  2. Stable Budgetary Situation: One reason for the lack of discussion on online casino legislation is the stable state budget. Rep. Didech noted that Illinois' budget has been on a stable footing in recent years, reducing the fiscal pressures to generate additional revenue streams through online casinos.
  3. Ongoing Consideration: Despite the current status, both Rep. Didech and Sen. Castro remain cautiously optimistic about the possibility of online casino legislation. Sen. Castro highlighted that discussions about revenue-generating proposals, including internet gaming, are still ongoing and could become part of budget negotiations.

Didech, who chairs the Illinois House Gaming Committee, has held just one hearing on the matter. However, he did not include Rep. Edgar Gonzalez’s House Bill 2239 (HB2239) on the committee's agenda. Didech expressed skepticism regarding the possibility of progress on Illinois online casino legislation this session, stating that while he doesn’t rule it out entirely, he doesn’t anticipate significant movement. Illinois’ legislative session is scheduled to end on May 24.

In an interview with PlayUSA, Didech explained, “There’s not a ton of momentum for iGaming this year, so I think it’s probably a long shot, but stranger things have happened. Gaming is an issue that sometimes comes together toward the end of the session.”

The lack of discussion surrounding online casino legislation this session can be attributed, in part, to the stability of the state budget. According to Didech, the state’s budgetary needs haven’t necessitated the consideration of additional revenue streams. “For a variety of reasons, the state budget has been on much more stable footing the last few years and we expect that to continue going forward. So we’re not seeing fiscal pressures to generate those sorts of revenues,” he stated.

Gonzalez’s HB2239 aims to establish the Internet Gaming Act, which would allow for three skins per internet gaming license and impose a 15% tax on internet gaming. However, the bill was re-referred to the Rules Committee on April 5, indicating its current status in the legislative process.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Sen. Cristina Castro’s Senate Bill 1656 (SB1656) faces a third-reading deadline on May 3. Despite this deadline, Castro remains optimistic about the prospects of online casino legislation. She suggested that online casino language could still become part of budget negotiations, emphasizing that discussions about revenue-generating proposals, including internet gaming, are ongoing.

“We are still in the early stages of the legislative session with weeks of budget negotiations and passing legislation still on the horizon. My colleagues and I will continue discussing numerous revenue-generating proposals in the coming weeks, including internet gaming,” Castro stated.

In addition to online casino bills, there is also attention being given to the issue of problem gambling in Illinois. Earlier in the session, Didech introduced House Bill 5307, which seeks to create a problem gambling task force. The bill aims to provide recommendations to the General Assembly on how the state should address gambling problems and disorders.

Didech emphasized the importance of evidence-based approaches, stating, “I think our gambling expansion has been a success for Illinois, but it’s our responsibility to be aware of the effects of that legislation and what, if anything, we need to do to mitigate those effects. Anything we do to address problem gambling needs to be data and evidence-driven.”

 

House Bill 5307 was re-referred to the Rules Committee on April 19, indicating that it’s still under consideration.

 

What now?

While the fate of online casino legislation remains uncertain in Illinois, stakeholders and interested parties can keep track of developments not only in Illinois but also in other states through PlayUSA's online casino bill tracker. As the legislative session progresses, the landscape of online gambling in Illinois may undergo significant changes, and it’s crucial to stay informed about these developments.

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