Lawmakers agreed to remove online poker and gambling from a proposed gaming expansion bill but hinted that a standalone bill would be introduced shortly.
The bill, SB 1739, initially called for gambling expansion in Illinois to include a handful of brick and mortar casinos, slot machines to be installed at airports and racetracks, and online poker and gambling to be regulated by a new Division of Internet Gambling. The online gambling portion of the measure has now been removed in order to facilitate a deal between the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ITHA) and Arlington Park.
A two-year contract signed yesterday by ITHA and Arlington Park representatives was contingent upon lawmakers agreeing to drop online gambling from SB 1739, the Daily Racing Form reported. The new contract allows Arlington’s thoroughbred meet for 2013 to begin as scheduled on May 3.
The Internet gambling provision received opposition from a number of interested parties who claimed that it was tacked onto the expansion bill without warning and rather late. The ITHA was one of the groups who vehemently objected to its inclusion on SB 1739. The association protested the fact that Arlington Park is owned by Churchill Downs, who is planning an entry into the U.S. online gaming market with thoughts of excluding the ITHA and other horse breeder associations from grabbing a share of the revenue.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has gone on record as saying that he will approve some forms of gambling expansion that properly address the threat of corruption, such as barring gaming companies from making political contributions. However, Quinn does not look favorably on online poker and gambling legislation. Last month, the governor stated that the issue was “thrown onto a bill at the last minute” and needs further review before he would sign off on it.
SB 1739 will now move forward without online gambling language attached. Insiders believe that the proposal will gain the approval of a Senate committee and reach the Senate floor for a full vote in just a few weeks. Whether the bill will receive the required aye votes is still up in the air, but its chances of passing are thought to be much better less the online poker and gambling provision.
It was learned that an Internet gambling measure will eventually be introduced in Illinois as a standalone bill. Its passage remains iffy at this time. The only thing certain is that the ITHA and other Illinois horsemen’s associations will continue to oppose the issue unless a portion of the revenue is set aside for them.
Other states have run into similar problems in attempting to pass online gambling legislation. A California lawmaker’s repeated attempts to gain approval of online poker regulations have barely made it out of the starting gate due to the insistence of certain Indian tribes that the state’s racetracks be excluded from participation.