Is online casino back on the menu in Illinois?

Ollie Ring profile picture
Sports Editor
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Sen. Cristina Castro has introduced Senate Bill 1656 in Illinois, proposing the creation of the Internet Gaming Act. The bill would authorize an internet gaming operator to offer Illinois internet gaming in accordance with the act’s provisions. Sen. Castro had her 2021 attempt at legalizing online casino dismissed, and this marks her latest attempt.

What does the Illinois bill contain?

Sen Castro’s bill proposes that the initial cost of an internet gaming license would be $250,000, with applications limited to Illinois casinos and racetracks. Each institution would be allowed a maximum of three skins on the license.

The industry, much like its land-based counterpart, would be regulated by the Illinois Gaming Board and the proposed tax rate is set at 15% of adjusted gross revenue, with operators allowed promotional deductions.

Illinois currently has legal sports betting, and also online/mobile sports betting. Although temporarily relaxed during the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person registration is mandatory for online sports betting. SB 1656 does not propose a similar measure for online gaming, and this may be an area that receives an element of push-back.

The other notable mentions in the bill surrounds responsible gambling, which has been increasingly a focus of lawmakers and operators in the US market. The bill suggests the regulator shall ‘develop responsible Internet gaming measures, including a statewide responsible gambling database identifying individuals who shall be prohibited from establishing an Internet wagering account or participating in Internet gaming offered by an Internet gaming operator.’

It also stipulates ‘each internet gaming platform shall display the words “if you or someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available. Call (toll-free telephone number)” or some comparable language approved by the Board, which language shall include the words “Gambling problem” and “call (toll-free telephone number”).’

What’s currently legal?

Illinois is home to one commercial land-based casino, and ten riverboat casinos. Additionally, there are 7,841 locations (per AGA, 2022) that offer legally authorized electronic gaming devices, including but not limited to video lottery terminals and video gaming terminals. This is the largest amount in the United States, showing the clear existing appetite for gaming within the state.

Illinois is by far the largest market for convenience electronic gaming devices, with 41,800 machines taking $1.93 billion per 2021 financial reports.

The abundance of machines around the state, however, does not always play favorably into the hand of online gaming, as although some argue it proves the appetite for gaming, those establishments that run the aforementioned machines argue it would be a revenue loss from within state and instead commercial operators would siphon money out of the state.

Where in the United States can you play casino online?

Online casino, better known as iGaming is legal in Delaware, West Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Jersey. Online poker is legal in Nevada but no other form of online casino. The gross gaming revenue recorded from online casino is vast, and as western markets show, the average revenue per user for casino is considerably higher than sports book.

The so called ‘path to profitability’ in the US market comes in part from cross-selling users from sports to casino products, but with only seven fully legal states this is far from ‘easy’.

There are similar pushes for online gaming in Texas, sports betting in Missouri and online sports betting in Oklahoma in what’s a busy time for lawmakers across the country.

Ollie is an experienced writer covering everything from esports to regulatory developments in the USA. He loves obscure data points and the occasional lousy parlay on 20 tennis players which inevitably loses.

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