Attempts by Illinois lawmakers to expand the state’s gambling options have once again come to naught. State Rep. Bob Rita had planned to introduce legislation that would have added one or more casinos in or around Chicago, but on Friday, the last day of the current legislative session, Rita said there were still too many disputes among stakeholders. Rita hopes to continue discussions over the summer and intro the bill in the special ‘veto’ session this fall. Online gambling had been a part of previous gambling expansion proposals, but State President John Cullerton said in March that the land-based issue must be resolved before the more contentious online issue can be discussed.
Things are looking slightly more active in Pennsylvania, where State Sen. Edwin Erickson has pledged to introduce a new online gambling bill “in the next few weeks.” Taking the path of least resistance, Erickson says his SB 1386 will be poker-only, a tactic he describes as “best for the introduction of interactive gaming.” Licenses would only be issued to the state’s existing casino licensees and no ‘bad actors’ who “violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act” would be permited to apply. Successful applicants would have to ante up $5m for their online license and online poker would be taxed at 14% of gross revenue.
Gambling Compliance writer Chris Krafcik (@CKrafcik) tweeted that Erickson’s bill has the backing of Caesars Entertainment, which operates a Harrah’s casino in Philadelphia. Nevada journalist Jon Ralston has suggested that Caesars is also the company pushing the draft of a new federal bill that would ban most forms of online gambling except poker. While Caesars operates online casinos in New Jersey, Krafcik says Caesars’ ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) means they “cannot publicly endorse internet casino gaming.”
Pennsylvania casinos experienced their first annual revenue decline last year and a recent legislative study concluded that online gambling would help offset competition from new casinos being built in neighboring states. Pennsylvania Democrats held a hearing early in May to discuss the pros and cons of adding online gambling to the state’s gambling palette. The state Senate’s Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee will hold another public hearing on June 3 at 9:30am to consider the casino industry’s “current state and potential for growth in an increasing competitive atmosphere and potential impact of new revenue sources.”