Illinois Casino Report: Gamblers Adjusting To New Normal Quite Well In July

Posted By Derek Helling on August 24, 2020 - Last Updated on February 25, 2021

Casinos, off-track betting sites, racetracks, sportsbooks and video lottery rooms in the Prairie State may be down, but they’re not out.

The numbers for Illinois gambling revenue in July demonstrate that.

Despite continuous state-imposed restrictions to help keep COVID-19 in check, statewide gaming win was only down about 29% compared to July 2019. If circumstances linked to the pandemic improve, those numbers should do the same.

Illinois July gambling revenue report wasn’t all doom and gloom

The resumption of gaming activities amid the pandemic is a win in and of itself. The volume of play may have been a pleasant surprise.

Gross gaming revenue for the month was just over $82.62 million. During July of last year, the same figure was about $115.75 million.

A drop in admissions is part of the reason for the 29% drop in revenue. Statewide casino admissions were down about 48% from July 2019.

The reason for optimism was strongest at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. The casino took in more than $30.3 million last month, a year-over-year decline of just 18%.

Video lottery terminals (VLT) around the state performed better in July than they did in the same month of 2019. Over 35,000 VLTs around Illinois did more than $166.1 million, an uptick of nearly 24% from July last year.

Given the circumstances, some could argue these numbers are impressive. They definitely speak to the demand for gambling around the state.

Circumstances IL gambling operators face right now

July was the first full month back in action for gambling companies in the Land of Lincoln. Even though casino doors were open again, it was far from the norm.

Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Gaming Board made clear that the state expects gambling licensees to enforce safety protocols.

Currently, those pandemic requirements include:

  • No more than 50% of the fire code capacity.
  • Maintaining social distancing on gaming floors.
  • Mandatory wearing of face masks and temperature checks.
  • Limitations on indoor dining and live entertainment.

So far, the casinos and other gaming facilities seem to be complying. While the state did tighten restrictions again in the St. Louis area, it doesn’t appear that gambling alone is responsible for the resurgence of positive tests there.

Currently, there’s no timetable for when Pritzker will loosen these restrictions. The governor has been clear that metrics, like the rate of positive tests and hospital capacities, will guide those decisions.

In a similar fashion, one aspect of the state of the Illinois gambling industry remains a mystery: legal sports betting.

IGB has yet to disclose sports betting revenue numbers

Illinois online sports betting began in the middle of June when BetRivers sportsbook app started accepting wagers. DraftKings has since also taken bets online in IL.

With the month of August coming to a close, the IGB has yet to share any numbers on how either those or retail sportsbooks have fared over the past several weeks. That’s unfortunate for the state.

A positive report regarding sportsbook handle in the state would be good marketing for the state, especially amid these circumstances. It could entice sportsbook operators to come to Illinois.

The numbers would also help lawmakers and regulators evaluate their decisions and their effects on the market.

For example, it’s tough to know how the in-person requirement affects the rate of registration in the state without those stats.

Until the IGB puts out a sportsbook revenue report, Illinoisans won’t get the full picture of the current state of the gambling industry in their state. Based on what information is public, however, the industry appears to be managing the situation.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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