Illinois Casinos Still Trying To Get On Same Page On Internet Gambling

Posted By Matthew Kredell on February 25, 2021

Illinois casinos still haven’t reached a consensus on the language for internet gambling.

The casinos unanimously support legalizing internet gaming. They have pushed for legalization since May.

Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association (ICGA), tells PlayIllinois that Caesars Entertainment drafted the bill introduced last week by Rep. Bob Rita.

He explained that a bill needed to be put on the books prior to the Feb. 19 deadline to file legislation. That buys casinos more time to work out the details.

“They wanted to get something out there so we can continue the discussion and hopefully reach consensus on exactly what should be in the bill,” Swoik said.

Where Illinois casinos disagree on online casino

The ICGA represents nine of the 10 casinos in the state. The only outlier is Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria.

Swoik indicated that casinos had met weekly to discuss online casino language for the past month, trying to come to a consensus.

“I don’t think they’re very far apart, from what I understand,” Swoik said. “It’s nothing major. I haven’t heard anybody getting upset with anybody else over it.”

Swoik wouldn’t get into the details on what issues are the sticking points among the casinos. However, he previously mentioned the number of skins as one disagreement. Rita’s bill includes a maximum of three skins.

Another issue figures to be in-person registration, which was contentious for sports betting. This bill does mandate in-person registration for the first six months, which is curious since the Caesars properties aren’t exactly located in city centers. Caesars operates two Harrah’s casinos in Joliet and Metropolis.

Illinois casinos don’t necessarily need to agree on all the details for a bill to pass. They did not come to a consensus on the sports betting language that passed in 2019.

“They still might not get full agreement, but I figure they will,” Swoik said.

Internet gambling could provide needed boost to casinos

Swoik is hopeful that lawmakers will see online casino gambling as a needed advancement of the industry in the COVID-19 era.

Illinois lost out on $200 million in casino gambling tax revenue last fiscal year due to casino closures.

“Casinos were closed down the whole month of December, but did pretty well with sports bets online,” Swoik said. “This is an opportunity for the state and casinos to generate revenue with internet gaming. It seems to me that the timing is right to do it now because if things continue and there’s another flare-up and casinos have to close down again, everybody loses.”

In Gov. JB Pritzker’s recent budget address, he proposed $700 million in cuts to state agencies and $932 million in cuts to corporate and business tax loopholes.

“Obviously, gaming isn’t going to pay off the deficit or retirement debt, but it’s an area where there could be new revenues available, and every little bit helps,” Swoik said. “That’s one of the main reasons the gaming expansion bill got passed in 2019.”

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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