Illinois Online Lottery Under Attack by Federal Lawmakers

I must admit, the title is a bit misleading: not only the Illinois online lottery is under attack, but the whole online gambling industry in the United States. Illinois was the first state to start to sell its state lottery tickets through the internet, and after three years since the pilot program’s launch, House Representative Ed Sullivan has filed legislation to make it permanent. HB3870 was filed this February, was referred and re-referred to the Rules Committee, and it currently sits there since March 27th. But it’s not the local legislators who can make the lives of online gamblers in Illinois miserable. The attack is prepared at a federal level in the form of the Restoration of the American Wire Act.

American players are banned from over 70% of the online casinos in the world, a recent report says, calling the US the worst country for online gambling on a list of 225 of them studied. US players can not join Euro Palace with the online promotions as most European casinos refuse to accept players from the US due to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2006, the first major blow delivered to online gambling in the US. It’s a pity – online casinos like the Euro Palace offer their players not just a secure environment where they can engage in their favorite games for real money, feeling safe at all times, but a range of games unavailable in the US, no matter if it’s online or land based casinos. The developer responsible for the game library at Euro Palace and other European online casinos releases several new games every month, adding new titles to its already huge offer of over 700 titles. Its mobile casino is among the best stocked in the world, with over 100 games to choose from. Not to mention the jackpots which often grow to multi-million dollar values.

The US laws keep players away from these providers, leaving them with a limited choice of games and operators – and often with dubious services at best.

And the US legislators, most likely pushed from behind by some companies afraid for their profits, are preparing a new bill, called the Restoration of the American Wire Act – a bill that would effectively outlaw most forms of online gambling in the US at a federal level. Although there is no conclusive proof about the bill having any land-based gaming stakeholders behind it, it is widely believed that it was initiated by the chairman of the Las Vegas Sands corporation, Sheldon Adelson. He is one of the biggest donors to the Republican party, and the sponsors of the bill are Republican lawmakers – including presidential hopeful Marco Rubio. In his announcement speech Rubio said the following: “Too many of our leaders and our ideas are stuck in the 20th century”. His views on online gambling denote the exact opposite, to say the least.

The Restoration of the American Wire Act is the land-based casino operators dream – it would ensure a monopoly on gambling for real money. It would not even allow state lotteries to sell their tickets online. It would effectively ban any form of real money gambling online, an industry that has the potential to create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax income each year. Besides, it would also maintain the current situation that keeps online casino operators in the “grey zone”, and keep major international operators and software developers out of the US gambling market.

Currently there are only three US states that have decided to regulate online gambling instead of outright banning it. Illinois is not one of them – local lawmakers want to see a land-based gambling operation established by the state in Chicago before even starting to consider regulating this lucrative online business. Hopefully the federal law won’t take away any chance for it to even bloom.