All three bills under consideration would legalize fantasy sports, tax it and set up oversight by the Illinois Gaming Board, which also oversees casinos and video machines at bars and restaurants. Two of the bills also would legalize internet gaming, like playing poker online, but only for websites operated by companies that own Illinois casinos.
Including internet games was a move designed to bring on board casino operators, who view fantasy sports as competition but have long wanted to break into the online gambling space.
“There was controversy last year as to why are we regulating daily fantasy sports activity, which is ongoing in the state, and not regulating internet gaming, which is also occurring,” said Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat who is sponsoring one of the bills. “So what this bill attempts to do is also regulate and bring licensure and supervision of internet gaming under the jurisdiction of the Gaming Board. And it would limit the operation of internet gaming to existing casinos.”
The internet gaming provision has been pushed hard by Rush Street Interactive, an online gaming business affiliated with the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, whose owner is Neil Bluhm, a Chicago real estate and gambling executive. Bluhm has given more than $500,000 in campaign contributions to lawmakers from both parties over the past 20 years, records show.
But as the final hours of the spring legislative session ticked away, the rushed nature of the effort was on display in the Senate on Tuesday morning when more than a dozen representatives of the horse racing industry packed into a hearing room to object to the legislation.
Before they had a chance, Raoul announced plans to amend the bill to give racetrack owners the right to obtain an internet gambling license as well. Those from the horse racing industry said they’d be satisfied with the accommodation, which hadn’t been put down on paper before the hearing. Looking to advance the legislation to the Senate floor in time for votes before Wednesday’s adjournment, senators pushed the measure through the committee.
The House Executive Committee hearing room was so crowded with lobbyists and industry representatives last night that it was difficult to move.