SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said the state could get needed revenue by legalizing online gambling, but he acknowledged getting approval would be difficult.
The Chicago Democrat has pushed for online gambling for two years, since the Justice Department OK’d the idea.
“People are already gambling, and we’re not making any of the money,” Cullerton said after a committee hearing Wednesday on the matter. “There are other states that are just getting started that are bringing in some money. So that may play a role in it when we try to pass a budget.”
One holdup could be concerns of the existing gambling industry, including riverboat casinos, on how expanded gambling could affect them, Cullerton said.
John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, told the committee he supports Cullerton on the matter. He said Illinois gamblers already have access to online poker, casino games and sports betting.
“Regulation simply would mean corralling the current unregulated marketplace,” he said.
Some experts believe Illinois could bring in $500 million a year, Pappas said.
But Anita Bedell of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems said gambling online would only create more problem gamblers.
“Making gambling more accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will make it easier for people to gamble and lose their money,” Bedell said. “There are more than enough opportunities to gamble in Illinois.”
Gambling expansion – namely, adding more riverboat casinos – has won legislative approval twice in recent years but has been vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn. An effort to revive the proposal is underway in the House.