Illinois Senate Bill Authorizing iGaming Assigned To Subcommittee

Written By Phil West on February 9, 2024
Photo of Illinois Sen. Cristina Castro, whose iGaming bill was just assigned to a Senate subcommittee

Several days after an iGaming bill was assigned to a committee in the Illinois House for consideration, a similar bill was sent to a subcommittee in the Illinois Senate.

Sen. Cristina Castro introduced Senate Bill 1656 into last year’s session a year and a day ago. Last month, the bill was re-assigned to the Senate Executive Committee — which Castro chairs — and has now been shuttled to the Subcommittee on Gaming, Wagering, and Racing for consideration.

The bill, if passed, would establish the Internet Gaming Act, giving residents the ability to play games at Illinois online casinos, with a “15% privilege tax … imposed on Internet gaming to be deposited into the State Gaming Fund.”

SB1656 is one of two iGaming bills with a pulse right now

Currently, House Bill 2239, first introduced by Rep. Edgar Gonzalez, Jr., is newly under consideration after being introduced in February 2023 and then stalling for nearly a year. Gonzalez ran on a platform that included a commitment to introducing iGaming legislation. Fans of the bill are concerned that there’s not yet adequate support to add online gaming to Illinois’s mix. The state already land-based casinos and sports betting.

Michigan is the only other Midwest state where iGaming is legal.

Both the House and Senate bills call for an initial online gaming license fee of $250,000, followed by an additional $100,000 paid annually by online gaming operators.

Illinois would be a massive iGaming market

A Center Square article from February 2023, covering Castro’s initial attempt at online casino legislation, cited marketing analyst Eric Ramsey in illustrating how lucrative online gaming could be.

He said, of the six states that had allowed iGaming up to that point:

“All of them across the board are finding out that sports betting is essentially the appetizer to the main course. In terms of raw revenue, online casino gambling basically dwarfs sports betting. The margins are a little larger and the volume is just substantially higher.”

He also believed that Illinois had the potential to beat out all other states in online casino revenue, saying:

“If you guys were to go down this road and legalize online casino gambling, it would be the most successful market in the country to date and would generate substantially more revenue than sports betting has for the state.”

The article noted that Illinois led the nation in 2021 “in the number of electronic gaming devices, with over 40,000 machines at nearly 8,000 locations around the state,” adding that a number of venues, including bars, gaming parlors, and gas stations, featured the machines.

Should either the House or Senate bill advance and win support from the other chamber, Gov. J. B. Pritzker would turn the bill into law with a stroke of his pen.

Photo by AP Photo/John O'Connor
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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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