Last year, an Illinois State bill was introduced that would have legalized online poker within the State. Despite having some early success in the State Senate, the Illinois online poker bill died on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives following some unfavorable remarks by Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn. Since this time, no other online poker bill has been introduced within the State and therefore online poker has remained illegal in Illinois.
Recent Illinois Online Poker Lawsuit
The fact that online poker is illegal within the borders of Illinois has not stopped Illinois residents from bringing suit against online poker websites. The most recent lawsuit was brought by Kelly Sonnenberg, an Illinois resident, against PokerStars, and others, to recover money lost by her son on the online poker website. Ms. Sonnenberg sought damages under Illinois’ Loss Recovery Act (the “LRA”), which allows aggrieved parties to recover monetary damages from the winnings of other players using online poker websites. PokerStars and the other defendants moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that they were not “winners,” as defined under the LRA, and thus should not be named as defendants.
While the Court did find that Ms. Sonnenberg alleged enough facts to allege that “losses occurred in Illinois through illegal gambling Internet site[s],” the Court ultimately ruled in the defendants’ favor, finding recovery under the LRA inapplicable to online poker sites, which it defined as “third party service providers.” The Court declined to rule on PokerStars’ argument that their previous settlement with the federal government after Black Friday in 2011 precluded any further claims against them.
Takeaway and the Effect on Online Poker
As we have previously noted, there are a number of bills pending before the United States Congress that may redefine “gambling” under federal law and make the LRA and other similar state laws obsolete. The Court’s decision in Ms. Sonnenberg’s case is unlikely to affect the continuing efforts at both the federal and state level to legalize, regulate and tax online poker and other casino games.