Online Poker Legalization Bill Introduced in Illinois

Bill constructed to launch sites quickly

Illinois State Representatives Robert Rita and Jonathan Carroll introduced a bill on Friday that would legalize online gambling, including online poker, in the state. HB 3142 would create the Internet Gaming Act (IGA) and, dare we say, it is actually a pretty reasonable piece of legislation.

The state already has legal sports betting, both retail and online. The first legal sports wager was placed nearly a year ago, on March 9, 2020. Unfortunately, that was just days before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns started, killing sports betting for a few months. Internet betting started last summer, but the problem there was that customers were required to create accounts in person. The governor waived that rule a couple times because of the pandemic and at this point, the regulation has expired.

As opposed to some other states, which dragged their feet on getting regulations in place and the switch turned on, even after online gambling was approved, the Illinois bill aims at making sure things get going quickly. When and if the bill becomes law, the Illinois Gaming Board will have 90 days to draw up the industry’s regulations. The bill also tells the Board to take as many regulations as possible from other states and the current rules for brick-and-mortar casinos to make the process as quick and simple as possible. It’s like an online poker operator opting to use another company’s software, rather than creating its own from scratch.

If an operator that already has a sports betting license applies for an online casino or poker license, the Board must issue a one-year temporary license to them within 30 days.

Interstate gaming approved

Illinois’ potential Internet Gaming Act also approves interstate gaming compacts, so multi-state player pooling would be possible for online poker. Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware currently have an interstate poker network, the All American Poker Network, populated by WSOP.com in Nevada and New Jersey and three 888poker-based racinos in Delaware.

Pennsylvania’s regulations permit interstate gaming compacts, but the state has not entered into any yet. Right now, the only poker room in the Keystone State is PokerStars, which also has a site in New Jersey and Michigan. Speaking of Michigan, the state originally did not allow interstate compacts, but did pass a separate bill to fix that error. Michigan’s online poker industry has only been alive for a few weeks and no multi-state arrangements have been made.

Licensing costs unremarkable

The bill would open up the market to 13 licenses, one for each of the state’s ten casinos and three racetracks. Each license holder, in turn, could have up to three skins.

The costs are very reasonable. Each license would initially cost $500,000, with a $250,000 renewal fee every four years. The tax rate is 12 percent of adjusted gross gaming revenue.

Illinois’ Internet Gaming Act would force operators to implement responsible gambling protocols such as voluntary self-exclusion and deposit limits. It also earmarks $10 million for problem gambling programs through the Department of Human Services.

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