2023 Illinois Online Casino Legalization Efforts Lose Prominent Advocate

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Legislators who hope to legalize Illinois online casino gambling in 2023 are disheartened by Rep. Michael J. Zalewski’s primary election loss. However, online gambling advocates don’t expect the loss of his prominent voice to stall legislative efforts.

Zalewski, D-Riverside, conceded defeat on June 28 to challenger Abdelnasser Rashid. Rashid, who won the Democratic primary by 323 votes, will face Republican Matthew Schultz in the Nov. 8 general election.

Rashid and Schultz didn’t return Bonus.com‘s questions about their stances on online casino and online poker legalization.

If Zalewski hadn’t conceded defeat, the Illinois State Board of Elections would have announced official results in that race on July 29. He didn’t respond to a request for comment from Bonus.com.

In the meantime, the Chicago Sun-Times reports Rashid won by 52.1%, or 4,087 votes. Zalewski received 47.9%, or 3,764 of the votes. Schultz ran uncontested.

Zalewski Will Be Missed in the House

Zalewski is still serving in the House, but online casino legislation is unlikely to come to a vote during the remainder of his term.

The Illinois General Assembly adjourned in early April. There may be a special session in September, but it’s unlikely to include gaming issues. Then there’s a veto session after the Nov. 8 election.

Meanwhile, the mourning period for Zalewski’s primary loss continues.

Today, a spokesman for Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, conveyed his sentiments about Zalewski to Bonus.com. Rita has introduced online casino bills in the House.

The two worked together on online sports betting, which launched in Illinois in June 2020.

Rita’s spokesman told Bonus.com:

Mike and Bob have worked closely together on gaming and other issues for several years. Mike’s understanding of the changing gaming landscape, particularly in the emerging sports betting market, has been extremely valuable. We expect his contributions to shaping gaming policy in 2023 will be missed in the Legislature as we discuss the future of iGaming, sports betting, video gaming, casinos, and other pieces of an industry that is so important to the success of Illinois.

Zalewski Will Be Missed Elsewhere

John A. Pappas, founder and CEO of Corridor Consulting, wrote about Zalewski on social media.

Pappas speaks to Illinois legislators on behalf of the nonprofit iDEA Growth (iDevelopment and Economic Association)

A week ago, he wrote in a LinkedIn post:

Primary elections matter; particularly in today’s volatile political environment. Yesterday, longtime leader on gaming issues in Illinois, Rep. Mike Zalewski, lost to his primary challenger. “Z” (as he is often referred to) has championed policies to modernize the state’s gaming industry. He also led efforts to repeal the in-person registration requirement, as well as negotiate a compromise on the in-state collegiate betting ban. Huge loss of a forward-thinking policymaker on issues critical to the future of the gaming industry.

Additionally, the nonprofit voiced similar sentiments.

iDEA Growth tweeted on June 29:

This is a disappointing election result. Rep. Zalewski is a sensible lawmaker that supports gaming modernization. He was critical to lifting the #sportsbetting in-person registration requirement and also addressing the in-state collegiate betting ban.

Illinois Online Casino Isn’t on Policy Lists

Rashid lists his seven “priorities” on his campaign website. None of them mention gambling.

On the home page, RashidForIllinois.com says:

As State Representative, Abdelnasser will prioritize the interests of working families, not corporate special interests.

Both Rashid and Schultz talk about their campaigns on Facebook. They’re both filled with news about the Highland Park mass shooting.

Schultz does mention his “primary issues” in his Facebook campaign page “about” section. There are two: freeze taxes and increase safety.

However, none of them mention the Internet Gaming Act (IGA).

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is the lead writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She had her first published byline at age 10, but didn't get paid for her writing until she got her first newspaper job. Fletcher's newspaper career started at Suburban News Publications in Ohio and eventually took her to The New York Times, where she's still a contract freelance reporter for the National Desk. She covers breaking news from Philadelphia, as needed. In March 2021, Fletcher began writing about online casino gambling as the lead writer for Online Poker Report.

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