Illinois Online Poker
As with many of the US states, Illinois has no laws pertaining directly to online poker. The activity is neither explicitly legal nor explicitly illegal, and no one has been prosecuted for playing online poker in the Prairie State, however lawmakers are keen to impose more clarity and so the situation could change, either in 2019 or further down the line.
A number of the States have riverboat casinos as their most common form of gambling, and Illinois is no different. Taking its lead from neighboring Iowa, riverboat casinos became prevalent in Illinois from the 1970s onward. Illinois’ motto is ‘State Sovereignty, National Union’, and it will be interesting to see whether the state, with a population of nearly 13 million, sticks to its motto by going it alone and making online poker Illinois legal before any more federal progress is made.
The Illinois lottery has already moved online, offering hope for legal poker sites Illinois natives can use in the future, but the only law relating even vaguely to online poker so far was passed in 2009 and attacks online gambling sites that offer poker or general games of chance. That said, no player has been prosecuted for using such a site and many of the best poker sites in Illinois are regulated offshore and used by players from Springfield to Chicago.
When it comes to attempts to make online poker legal Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has been the main driving force, endeavoring to create a division of internet gaming back in 2011 wit a view to extensive regulation in the Prairie State. However Cullerton’s bill, House Bill 4148, failed to get the support it required to move forward and make legal poker in Illinois a possibility. Still, there seems to be some support and it would not surprise us to see these efforts renewed at some stage.
Are the riverboat casino owners likely to oppose legal online poker?
There are definitely concerns on their part, much as some of the larger land-based casino interests in other states have questioned the benefits of a legal online poker framework. Again, as with other states, with legal online poker Illinois is likely to have more chance of success than if the state opts for full-scale liberalization of its online gambling industry.
Will online poker regulation in other states prove beneficial to Illinois?
We can only speculate, of course, but it certainly seems as though a successful legal online poker market in Nevada, Delaware or New Jersey could encourage lawmakers in the Prairie State to revive plans for a legal online poker framework of their own. This seems like it would be particularly positive were two or more of the states with regulated online poker to opt to pool liquidity, thus giving Illinois an idea of how it could benefit from leveraging a large and poker-hungry population.
Might online lottery ticket sales pave the way for online poker?
It seems like this could be beneficial most in terms of providing a test run for the various checks and balances needed for online poker to flourish. The best poker sites in Illinois, or in a regulated Illinois market at least, would need to be able to ensure no underage player could access the system. If a solid online lottery framework can show this to be achievable, that would eliminate one potential obstacle to legal online poker in Illinois.
But doesn’t the Senate President support online poker?
John Cullerton, Illinois Senate President, has indeed been a very vocal supporter of online poker. However, as recently as April this year he admitted that the Prairie State would first need to fully explore the expansion of casino gambling beyond the existing riverboat casinos.