9 months ago herald-review.com
Industry advocates say the state could generate $200 million annually
Illinois could reap nearly $200 million annually if it became the fourth state to legalize online poker, an industry advocate said Wednesday.
In comments to a Senate committee, John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, said legalization would not only bring more money to the state, but it would result in tighter regulations for a practice that is already under way among poker aficionados.
"Prohibition will only play into the hands of the criminal element," Pappas said.
Pappas' testimony came just a day after Nevada and Delaware signed an agreement legalizing online gaming options in both states. New Jersey already allows Internet-based gambling.
The prospect of a new stream of cash flowing into state coffers had Senate President John Cullerton saying he hopes some kind of gambling expansion package could be hammered out before the end of the spring legislative session.
The Democrat from Chicago has been prodding his colleagues to move on the issue for nearly two years.
In 2012 he called on legislative leaders and Gov. Pat Quinn to add online poker into the mix as part of the annual end-of-session horse-trading that goes on under the Statehouse dome.
On Wednesday, however, Cullerton said legalization could again be a tough sell because of opposition from casino owners and horse track operators.
"There's a lot of complications about how it affects the existing gaming industry. That seems to be where the hang up might be right now," he told reporters.
But, with the state's temporary income tax expiring in the middle of the next fiscal year, Cullerton said the revenue generated by online poker could help fill an expected $1.5 billion gap.
"The other states that are just getting started are bringing in some money so that might play a role in it when we try to pass a budget," Cullerton said.
Opponents say the market for gambling is saturated.
"There are already enough opportunities for gambling in Illinois," said Anita Bedell, executive director of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems.