Chicago Mayor Wants To Explore Potential For Video Gaming Terminals In The City

Written By Cole Rush on May 2, 2024
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, who is considering hiring a consultant to explore VGTs in the city

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson is reportedly eyeing a new revenue stream for the city: video gaming terminals.

VGTs have long been a source of tax revenue in other Illinois cities, but they’ve been prohibited in Chicago proper. Johnson has issued a request for qualifications in an effort to find a gaming consultant who could investigate potential VGT revenue in the city.

The Current Status of VGTs in Chicago and Illinois

Right now, VGTs remain prohibited in Chicago because of a city ordinance. As such, no venues in the city currently host the slot-like gaming machines. However, a bill is alive in the general assembly, which could legalize them in Chicago.

Although the Windy City lacks them, Illinois rakes in money from VGTs elsewhere in the state. They’re one of the state’s biggest sources of gambling-related tax revenue, funneling more than $835 million into state coffers in 2023. As of this writing, more than 45,000 VGTs are available in Illinois at more than 8,500 host locations. With proper licensing, participating locations can host up to six terminals.

Illinois is one of the country’s biggest VGT states. Adding Chicago into the mix could further cement the Land of Lincoln as a hotbed for VGTs.

Johnson Seeking Consultants; Applications Accepted Through May 9

The office of Jill Jaworski, Chicago’s chief financial officer, has released a request for qualifications seeking potential consultants for the city. The RFQ was released in mid-April, with an application deadline of May 9, 2024, at 5 p.m. CT.

There’s no guarantee the city will actually hire a consultant, but it’s distinctly possible. Johnson’s camp also said it’s possible that they could bring on multiple qualified consultants.

Right now, details are scant about what the potential consultant(s) would do. The role would likely entail analyzing the potential tax revenue of VGTs in Chicago and recommending a framework for licensing and regulation in the city.

How Would VGTs Impact Bally’s Chicago?

Whenever a new form of gambling is even whispered about, cries of “Cannibalization!” erupt.

It happens constantly in legislatures seeking to approve online casinos, for example. Studies and data show that new gambling streams are the rising tide that lifts all boats, though. In other words, cannibalization is often an unfounded worry.

This is all speculation on my part — and I’m open to being proven wrong by the city’s eventual consultant(s) — but my guess is VGTs would do virtually nothing to affect Bally’s Casino Chicago revenue.

Why? Because while VGTs look and play like slots, they exist in different spaces. VGTs are most commonly placed in restaurants or bars that are more likely to draw local crowds for their food and drink. Some folks might come for the gaming, but VGTs aren’t a destination.

Bally’s is a full-fledged casino, complete with table games, hundreds of slots, an upcoming sportsbook, and plenty of other amenities. Gamblers seeking a casino experience won’t find that in a roped-off section of a local watering hole.

I’d guess the only Illinois casino in Chicago has nothing to worry about. The same goes for Illinois online casinos, should they ever become legal. It’s a different time, place, and experience overall.

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Cole Rush

Cole Rush writes words. A lot of them. Most of those words can be found in gambling publications such as PlayIllinois, iGaming Business, Gaming Today, Bonus.com, MidwestSharp.com, ICE 365, and IGB North America. Cole also covers pop culture and books for Tor.com and TheQuillToLive.com. Cole has more than eight years of experience writing about gambling and entertainment.

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