Illinois Legislators Schedule Online Gaming Hearings

IllinoisA new proposal for gaming expansion in Illinois that would likely include online poker and casino gambling may be forthcoming before the end of 2018 as an Illinois lawmaker has scheduled two separate hearings in coming months that will also address sports betting and fantasy sports.

Illinois State Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island), who leads a pair of House subcommittees focused on gaming and taxes, respectively, has announced that the first committee hearing will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 22 in downtown Chicago at the Bilandic Building on North LaSalle Street. The second of the gaming expansion hearings is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 3 at the state Capitol in Springfield.

Although both committee meetings will convene prior to the November elections, any new legislation that might be borne from the fruits of the hearings likely won’t be proposed until after votes are tallied. The idea is to build a consensus on the gaming expansion issue and to move quickly in proposing a bill following the general election on November 6, 2018.

Eye on Growth

Rita appears intent on creating economic growth for the Prairie State and is convinced that gaming expansion is the way to accomplish that goal. The lawmaker from Blue Island stated in a press release that the gaming landscape has been altered dramatically in recent years, including the US Supreme Court’s reversal of PASPA just a few months ago that allows individual states to offer wagers on sports.

State Rep. Bob Rita said:

I want to use these hearings to understand how those changes present new opportunities for us to put the right package together as we look to meet budget needs and provide a spark for our economy,

For the past five years, Rita has taken the lead on gaming issues among his fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives. That role saw Rita propose a number of bills designed to expand gaming in the Land of Lincoln.

One such proposal was a voluminous amendment to a Senate bill that would have placed slot machines at race tracks and the opening of a new Danville casino, among other gaming expansion ideas. That bill failed to garner support prior to the end of the legislative session on May 31.

Continuing the Push for Gaming Expansion

The upcoming committee hearings in August and October will expound on Rita’s proposal that ran aground when time expired just a little over two months ago.

Officials have stated that a Danville casino would provide jobs to about 600 construction workers. Another 600 or so would find permanent work once the casino is operational. The casino would bring annual revenue to the state of about $5 million, and untold millions more should lawmakers agree to regulate online poker and casinos, daily fantasy sports (DFS), and sports betting.

The legislature has kept an eye on DFS for the past few years, but never passed a bill to regulate it. The Illinois Senate did approve a proposal to legalize online poker and gambling last year, but no vote was taken on the measure in the House.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett