April 02, 2013

Illinois to be fourth online gambling state?

Could Illinois be the fourth state to enter the online gambling business? Lawmankers in the state have sent another gambling expansion bill to Governor Pat Quinn for consideration and hopefully signing into law.

Previously the state Governor has had concerns over problem gambling safeguards, proper regulation and oversight of the gambling industry.

Senators have sent proposals to the Governor to expand gambling with five new casinos, including one in Chicago, increasing the number of slots machines in the state, which would include Chicago’s two airports. However the biggest of them could be the inclusion of online gambling in the state.

Illinois has a population of over 12 million residents, making the state by far the largest to enter the online gambling world, should the Governor sign the bill into law.

The possibility of this happening this time is more likely, the democratic Governor has previously kicked out two other attempts by lawmakers to expand gambling in the state because of his concerns, but in his March budget speech he said he was now open to the prospect of gambling expansion.

The bill includes some provisions this time to help the Governor put pen to paper with; a ban on political contributions from the gambling industry, appointing an inspector general to monitor gaming and giving the state gaming board more authority over a Chicago casino.

“The stars are probably lining up better than they’ve ever lined up,” said Sen. Terry Link, who’s a main sponsor of the legislation. “We’re doing a lot of the things that the governor wanted.”

It is well known that the Governor is skeptical over online gambling, but supporters say that online gambling could help the states serious financial problems. However Pat Quinn has said that the most important issue for the state is the $100 billion pension black hole, which could delay the progress of the gambling expansion bill, until this is sorted out.

“There hasn’t been much review on that at all,” Quinn told reporters last week. “Any time you have something brand new, it shouldn’t just be thrown into a bill at the last minute.”

But Senator Link, who has sponsored gambling legislation for the state for over ten years, says it only makes sense because people are doing it online illegally, and legalizing it would help bring profits to the state.

Part of the proposal calls for splitting profits, between treatment programs for problem gamblers and the pension problem. Supporters estimate the profits that would go toward the state’s public pension system could exceed $50 million.

“This is the only revenue-generating bill that’s been introduced,” Link said.

However, when asked last week by reporters, Quinn said he won’t consider gambling until lawmakers solve the pension problem. Quinn has made pensions his number one issue since 2011.

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