State lawmakers move closer to legalizing internet gambling - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

State lawmakers move closer to legalizing internet gambling

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

You may soon be able to bet big bucks on poker and other casino-style games all on your own computer. An Illinois State Senate committee could vote on an internet gambling proposal by Friday.

The bill has a powerful chief sponsor is Senate President John Cullerton, but internet gambling also has its opponents.

Gambling's promise of easy money has mesmerized members of the Illinois General Assembly for more than 30 years, producing first the state lottery then 10 casinos. They generated fewer new jobs and less money than predicted for cash-poor public schools. Supporters of legalized internet gambling, though, said it would help with a new crisis: public employee pensions, producing tens of millions of dollars.

"That's not the size of the problem Illinois faces," says Laurence Msall with the Civic Federation. "It has $7 billion in unpaid bills. It has $7.7 billion in pension contributions it's having a hard time funding."

Laurence Msall's taxpayer watchdog Civic Federation and others feared the internet gambling proposal could let some legislators off the hook. They could vote for it and then join public employee unions in opposing strong pension reform.

"The lottery didn't save the state's financial problems," he continues. "Casino expansion didn't solve the state's problems. And expansion into new areas of gambling is not gonna solve the state's problems. The fear is it's a distraction."

It's not clear that Cullerton has yet lined up enough votes, but his spokeswoman said the Senate Executive Committee will "possibly" take it up on Friday.

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