Illinois Casinos Moves For Lawmakers To Approve iGaming, Mobile Sports Betting Registration in 2021

As Illinois casinos enter their second week under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s closure order, reports show that the 10 gaming properties in the state are lobbying lawmakers for some more changes to state laws.

Tom Swoik, the executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, has said that the casinos would endorse two initiatives in the state that will help the industry. One is gaming legalization, and the other is doing away with the necessity for mobile sports betting accounts for in-person registration.

Even as emergencies such as pandemics and disasters force their closure, mobile slots and table games will allow casinos to generate revenue still. In Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, iGaming is currently operational. iGaming was approved last year by Michigan lawmakers. It is expected by officials there to begin early next year.

Pennsylvania may serve as the best comparison for Illinois among the four iGaming states, as the population totals of the states are close. Over $1 billion wagered on mobile slots for six straight months has been registered in Pennsylvania through October. That has contributed to gross revenues of nearly $235 million and state tax funding of $79.8 million during that period.

Online table gaming in Pennsylvania topped $1 billion in handling in October for the first time. Betting apps, with more than $2.7 million in taxes earned, registered more than $19.4 million in sales last month.

Although casinos will support mobile gaming unless they obtain concessions or are permitted to get involved as well, the video gaming industry will likely resist such efforts. According to the Illinois Gaming Board, Illinois had 37,459 machines in 7,350 locations in October, including cafes, truck stops, and convenience stores.

In-Person Registration May Hurt Sports Betting in Illinois

The in-person registration has been welcomed by industry stakeholders (and Illinois bettors), especially as state officials have recently curtailed casino hours. But they still hope for a more lasting solution instead of month-by-month orders that, if they are not renewed, threaten the state’s sports betting market.

The in-person registration attracted criticism even before the pandemic.

In the best of cases, Illinois casinos are scattered across the state, making in-person subscriptions challenging. For example, a resident of Chicago would not have much trouble signing up for the mobile sportsbook BetRivers by driving to the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. But he or she will have to drive more than three hours to register in East St. Louis for the DraftKings sportsbook.

For most Illinois residents, with only a few retail sportsbooks within easy access and those facilities threatened by limited hours, closures, and clients unable to visit during a pandemic, would-be legal clients are more likely to stick to offshore sites or unregulated bookmakers.

Regulated wagering is still only an estimated eight percent of the unregulated industry, even with the rapid spread of legal sports betting in the past two and a half years. Getting five Illinois sportsbooks, all with statewide mobile registration at least gives customers options and gives the legal market a fighting chance.

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