Strictly Slots has released the winners of its Chicagoland Best of Slots 2023 awards. The Players Choice Award – the top honor given – went to Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel.
Bally’s led the state across the board, but several other casinos in Illinois were also recognized in the annual competition. Grand Victoria Elgin, Horseshoe Casino Hammond and Hollywood Casino Joliet all enjoyed multiple top-three finishes.
Bally’s leads all Illinois casinos in total Strictly Slots awards
There are 15 casinos taking wagers in the Illinois casino market, but only 11 earned recognition in the Best of Slots awards for 2023. Illinois online casinos remain illegal.
Strictly Slots judges just slot machines and customer service. Table game offerings are not considered.
The Strictly Slots Best of Slots 2023 gives out awards to the top three casinos across 24 categories. Categories include Best Overall Casino, Best Customer Service and Best Penny Slots, among others. No casino had more total awards than Bally’s, which is why it was awarded the Players Choice Award.
Bally’s Quad Cities also earned 15 top-three finishes. Of those, nine of them were first-place honors. Bally’s led the state in both podium finishes and first-place awards.
Here are the nine categories in which Bally’s was the top dog in the state:
- Best Overall Casino
- Best Progressive Slots
- Best Penny Slots
- Best 50-Cent Slots
- Best High-end Slot Area
- Best Slot Club
- Best Comps
- Best Hosts
- Best Customer Service
Hollywood Casino Joliet enjoys three first-place finishes
The second most-awarded casino was Grand Victoria Elgin, which had 11 podium finishes to go with the top prize in two categories: Best $5-plus Slots and Best VIP Service.
Horseshoe Casino Hammond had nine top-three finishes, which was third-most in the state. It also had one first-place finish in the Best Variety of Slots category.
Hollywood Casino Joliet was awarded eight podium awards. Three were the top prize: Best Reel Slots, Best Quarter Slots and Best Players Club Lounge.
Rivers Casino Des Plaines also finished in the top three a total of eight times. It took first place for Best Video Poker.
The other Penn Entertainment casino in Illinois, Hollywood Casino Aurora, finished in the top three across seven categories. It collected the top prize for Best Dollar Slots.
Five other Illinois casinos were recognized.
Could online casinos be next for Illinois?
The Illinois casino market remains robust. In November, more than $130 million in revenue was collected from just under one million people who visited a casino in the state.
Could the Illinois casino market be even stronger? DraftKings CEO Jason Robins thinks so. When he spoke at the Craig-Hallum Online Gaming Conference, he said he believes online casino gambling could become a tremendous revenue generator for states.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s bigger than sports at some point for our business.”
Currently, just six states have full online casino capabilities. Robins said the key to unlocking the North American market could be Illinois.
“I think a lot of people are sort of sleeping on it a little bit and maybe are just focused on how big the sports side can be and not realizing the iGaming side can make the business even larger. And I think it’s something that also maybe because there wasn’t a lot of momentum in the last year or so on the legislative side, people have kind of forgotten about it a little bit. But I think that’s another one that’s only a matter of time.
“We did hit a bit of a period where I think a lot of states had their pockets full after the COVID federal relief packages. And some of those states are starting to pull their head up now and say, ‘Hey, we’re looking for new sources of revenue.’”
Bringing online casinos to Illinois will take a herculean effort. Two House bills brought forward in 2023 ended up dying in the House Rules Committee. A similar Senate bill also died in committee. So far, there has not been a legislative appetite to expand gaming in Illinois.
One method of passing an iGaming bill would be getting the video lottery terminal (VLTs) industry on its side. VLTs are slots-like machines found in gas stations and bars across Illinois. VLTs contributed $921.4 million of taxes to the state in 2022, which gives the industry a lot of pull.