Yesterday, the Illinois Senate Executive Committee passed a brand new version of the casino gaming bill, which we've covered here at Illinois Review extensively. On the surface, it appears to be the same as the other gaming bills that passed the Senate, as we've noted, but yesterday, it came to our attention that there's a small nugget within that might have an impact on one of Illinois Review's favorite small time Illinois bureaucrats.
The bill contains a provision that would give Mike Jones, the Illinois Lottery director who spent the last year wasting tax dollars on a world tour to badmouth the state's lottery privatization project, even more control.
For the third time in as many years, an Illinois Senate committee has passed an expansion of casino gaming in the state, but this time it has a caveat: online gaming and poker is a part of the bill.
The new legislation, SB1739, is virtually the same bill that has been introduced in the Illinois General Assembly in the two previous years. It calls for an expansion of casino gaming into the cities of Danville, Rockford, Lake County and the suburbs of Chicago. If passed into law, it would more than double the number of physical gaming locations in the Land of Lincoln from its present ten sites to 23 across the state.
Specifically, according to the bill itself (page 80, lines 8-26), the Lottery Superintendent can offer any type of internet game the division wants skill or chance, with "skill" specifically referring to poker and "chance" referring to any type of risky online gaming, including an online lottery, online slot machines, Bingo, Keno - even a full fledged online internet casino. Page 83, line 22 notes that the Illinois Lottery Superintendent can even make internet wager agreements with foreign governments - which would put Illinois in a class by itself, able to process foreign lottery transactions within the boundaries of the state. And the responsible gaming commission that the governor wants to appoint? They would only answer to Mike Jones.
And, of course, page 95 line 14-24, gives the Lottery Superintendent full global travel powers, because Mike Jones wouldn't have it any other way. Because after granting him the power to control all of Illinois online gaming, we certainly shouldn't stop him from controlling his share of our money, too.
The worst part? This bill, which is supposed to provide a means to increase revenues for the state and boost the local economy by providing jobs and revenue to local businesses, actually vests all of the power to handle online gaming in the state, effectively muscling out any private competitors. That's certainly not a way to treat a free market you hope will make you lots of tax money.
As much as Illinois residents might support the gaming bill, as with all Illinois bills, this is less about Illinois and more about brokering power.