Cullerton gambles on Internet gaming

So-called 'iGaming' is the latest attempt to draw in more revenue

May 15, 2012

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One of Illinois’ top statehouse Democrats wants the state to become an international hub for internet gaming, the purpose being to draw new revenue into the state’s meager coffers.

Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) is aiming to move quickly on legislation that would both regulate and promote internet gambling.

Cullerton laid out his idea in a letter sent Monday to both parties’ leaders in the House and Senate.

The proposal calls for the creation of a new Division of Internet Gaming within the Illinois Lottery.

“To further capture new revenues available in the iGaming marketplace in a manner that protects consumers, provides logical and responsible regulation,” Cullerton stated in a news release.

The Internet gaming industry is estimated to be worth $40 billion. It is largely unregulated and untaxed, so overseas companies dominate the market.

“We estimate hundreds of millions of dollars,” Cullerton stated. “The state could organize the first major poker pool, garner worldwide popularity and position itself as a ‘hub’ for multistate and international iGaming.”

Cullerton said such a move can be done in an “ethical and socially responsible manner” while still generating millions for the state.

States such as California, Iowa and New Jersey are looking to regulate online gambling.

Cullerton’s push is meant to also prevent potential federal legislation that could supercede states’ own regulations and operations.

In March, Illinois became the first state to sell lottery tickets on the Internet.

So far, Cullerton’s idea seems to be getting nowhere with Gov. Quinn.

“We are wholly focused on pension and Medicaid solutions, which are essential to restoring fiscal stability to Illinois. Those are our priorities right now,” Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson stated. “We need to keep our eye on the ball and that is solving these two major issues that are consuming 39 percent of taxpayers dollars while squeezing out every other area of state government.”

Gambling industry supporters earlier this year introduced another gaming proposal that would allow for more casinos and slot machines at horse tracks in Illinois. That proposal has not gained traction in the Illinois House and Senate.