Nine Days and Counting: Illinois on the Brink of Online Poker

Illinois: The Future of Online Gaming
Editorial/Opinion
May 22, 2012
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Illinois: The Future of Online Gaming
 

Andrew E. Larsen, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs License

Over the next nine days, Illinois lawmakers have the opportunity to pass legislation that will create jobs and add tens of millions of dollars to our local economy on an annual basis. Senate President John Cullerton introduced legislation to expand the ability of the Illinois Lottery to include other forms of online gaming.

In order to protect its citizens and “to capture revenues generated from Internet gaming” it is in the “best interest of the State and its citizens to regulate this activity,” Cullerton stated.

Revenue

A study of online poker in North America shows that in 2010 alone overseas operators collected over $56m in revenue from Illinois residents. This revenue was generated in spite of an environment where the illegality of online poker and restrictions on the promotion of the game stunted its growth; A safely regulated environment where advertising and promotion are allowed will likely increase that number substantially.

There is verification for these numbers in Iowa, our neighbors to the west, who also conducted a study on the prospect of regulating online poker. Based on aggregate projections of poker play in the US and adjusted for the state’s population, the study concluded that Iowa stood to gain as much as $13m in annual revenue. Illinois has more than four times the population of Iowa.

Timing

Make no mistake; online gambling in the US is a matter of “when” and not “if.” Since the US Department of Justice responded to Illinois’ request for clarification of the Wire Act, several states have begun exploring the prospects of online gambling. Nevada is set to begin issuing licenses to operators as soon as next month.

Illinois has the rare opportunity to reap the rewards of being an early adopter without the risk usually associated with those first out of the gate. Barring Federal legislation, many gaming experts see online gambling going the way of lotteries: Individual states will join forces to form multi-state agreements. In doing so, they will increase the liquidity of the games which in turn increases the prize pools and results in increased participation.

By getting in the game early, Illinois can establish a gaming framework and infrastructure, which other states will adopt. Illinois can become the intellectual epicenter of the industry.

But Illinois will not be moving into uncharted territory. Online gaming has been successfully regulated around the world. Concerns about age verification, cheating prevention, protection of problem gamblers and geolocation have already been addressed by technologies and policies developed in other countries.

Illinois already has an online lottery. Illinoisans can already place horse racing bets online. Online poker is the next logical step.

With this legislation, Cullerton is aiming to make Illinois “a hub for internet gambling around the world” and stresses the urgency for the state to “act quickly” before other states take the lead in the billion dollar industry.

The Bill

Positioned prominently in the amendment is an emphasis on player protections. Currently residents of Illinois are subjected to unregulated and unscrupulous operators that have proven on several occasions that absent the threat of prosecution they have no problem cheating and stealing money from Illinois residents.

Also, there is nothing in the amendment that indicates this legislation would be bad for players. The proposed legislation calls for the creation of the Division of Internet Gaming under the Illinois Lottery. The specifics such as operators, games offered, rake, etc. are yet to be determined, however players will be happy to learn that the Division would be granted the authority to enter into agreements with other states. The ability to form multi-state compacts to boost liquidity will offer players a wide variety of games to choose from as well as larger prize pools in tournaments.

Plan of Action

With nine days to go in the current legislative session, it is imperative that poker players of Illinois take action. We need to contact state legislators and let them know that we want this bill passed. We want the liberties it affords our citizens. We want the tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue to stop flowing over seas. We want the job creation that comes along with becoming an industry leader.

Social media has the ability to spread the word quickly to people in your sphere of influence. Post on Facebook and Tweet to your followers. Call your representatives in the state capital. In Illinois, the moment is now and time is of the essence. You can use the resources available on this Facebook page to contact state lawmakers

This isn’t a situation where you need to wait months to see the fruits of your labor. Illinois can’t afford not to seize the opportunity. The prize is within our grasp but we only have nine days.

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