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Illinois Lottery Fires First Shot

State organization examining setting up online casino

Illinois Lottery Fires First Shot

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said lawmakers must move quickly to pass a measure that would regulate internet gambling in Illinois. He said “time is of the essence” to approve the bill, because Congress is considering legislation that only would allow states with a framework in place to offer gambling online.

But like all things gaming in Illinois, Cullterton’s solution is another slap in the face to the state’s casino industry.

Cullerton said internet gaming would generate potential new revenues “in the hundreds of millions of dollars.” He pointed out that many Illinois residents already gamble online—illegally—through offshore gambling sites. “In turn, the state could organize the first major poker pool, garner worldwide popularity and position itself as a ‘hub’ for multi-state and international i-gaming,” Cullerton added.

Cullerton’s solution would create a Division of Internet Gaming within the Illinois Lottery that would establish an internet gaming platform, accept wagers, pay out winnings and  promote internet gaming. Additionally, the division would work with other states to offer intrastate gaming, such as poker, and verify that users are legally allowed to gamble.

In a letter to his colleagues, Cullerton pointed out, “Certain forms of i-gaming, especially poker, rely on large pools of potential players, and states that move swiftly to design a system that captures the widest audience of participants will have an advantage in terms of long-range success.”

Sources tell Global Gaming Business that the Illinois plan would allow the state’s casinos to participate, but only as sponsors of the lottery system. The lottery would keep the lion’s share of the revenue and operate all the systems.

A spokesman for Governor Pat Quinn said the administration would not take a position on the Cullerton plan, saying the administration does not want to be distracted from focusing on Medicaid and public employee pension reforms.

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