The US Department of Justice (DOJ) let a key appeal deadline pass this week pertaining to the Wire Act that signals good news for internet gaming in the US and Illinois.
The Biden Administration’s DOJ has chosen not to further pursue the 2018 Wire Act opinion that would have expanded the law’s purview beyond sports betting. As a result, US gaming and lottery operators have the assurance that they won’t eventually violate the Wire Act.
Legislative hurdles remain to pass online casino and poker in many states, including Illinois. But this is a positive development for legal online gaming advocates.
Jeff Ifrah, the general counsel for iDEA Growth, an organization that seeks to grow jobs and expand the online interactive gaming business in the US, said:
“The DOJ’s decision to not seek Supreme Court review — as well as all the court decisions thus far nullifying the 2018 opinion — signifies that confusion around the interpretation of the Wire Act may be a thing of the past.
“Now states considering legalizing online gaming can enter into compacts with other states that offer legal internet gaming, and state legislatures will have the ability to create rational gaming regulations that protect consumers, grow jobs and generate tax revenues without risk of federal intervention.”
The state of New Jersey is going one step further, asking the Biden Administration to declare online gambling legal. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the DOJ should “lift the fog of ambiguity” over online gambling.
Online casino and online poker are not yet legal in Illinois, however. Let’s take a look at where those issues stand now.
What’s the status of Illinois online casino, online poker?
There is clear momentum for online casinos and poker in Illinois. Bills have been introduced, and the Senate even passed a resolution that calls for a report into how much money expanded internet gaming would have brought in for the state had it been legal prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That signals a desire among several legislators to put a gaming package together.
However, there are also plenty of detractors. At the meeting, many expressed concern about how online casino would impact the video gaming terminal (VGT) industry.
VGTs provide another revenue stream for restaurants and bars in Illinois. After COVID-19-related closures wreaked havoc on that industry, some lawmakers are uncomfortable with making life potentially more difficult for them.
For what it’s worth, we don’t know if online casinos would cannibalize VGTs. Internet gaming proponents argue that the two could co-exist and are targeting different types of customers.
Still, there is plenty of fear on the VGT side that cannibalization will happen. We don’t have much data; however, VGTs are far more prominent in Illinois than in most places.
If online casino and poker were to pass one day in Illinois, they’d likely be extremely popular. IL had the No. 2 sports betting market in the US in April, recording $537.2 million in handle.