In June 2019, Illinois made sports betting legal. A year later, BetRivers was introduced by Rivers Casino to offer the state the first online wagering site for sports. Now, to give Illinois residents more choices to choose from, five additional online sportsbooks have been released.
But online casino gaming is one type of gaming that has yet to be legalized, and it’s an environment that Tom Swoik, a state government lobbyist for the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, said he thinks the state would benefit from.
“In Illinois, igaming is still an untapped market,” Swoik said. “Seeing what’s happening with internet gaming in other states, especially in New Jersey, it didn’t have a negative impact on casino brick-and – mortar activities that people thought it would have.”
Efficient ONLINE CASINOS DURING PANDEMIC
New Jersey had nearly $80 million in sales in April when casinos were closed. $74.8 came from online casinos and $5.15 from online poker. The overall revenue from April 2019 was more than double the $36.6 million from April 2018.
“We’ve also seen a rise in casino admissions in New Jersey since people have started coming back,” Swoik said. Or, it was coming from new people who had a nice time doing it online, so they wanted to go to the casinos.
“If we had iGaming, when all the casinos had to shut down for three and a half months, it would not only have helped the industry, but it would also have helped the state raise revenue, and they wouldn’t have lost as much money.”
Swoik spoke at the virtual meeting at a special gaming committee meeting held by the Illinois Senate in April and advocated for iGaming to be considered a potential form of revenue for the state. Of the nine casinos he serves, according to Swoik, all of them are in favor of incorporating iGaming.
FUTURE OF INTERNET GAMING ILLINOIS
In June 2019, the state legislature will expand gambling. Online casino gaming is not included in the expansion bill. Swoik says it could be hard to persuade the legislature to add online casino gaming to the bill.
“It’s going to be a hard sell,” said Swoik. Everyone is looking to see what will happen. That being said, with this year’s coronavirus issue and sales dropping so far, my personal opinion is that they’re going to be looking for some way to boost sales, and iGaming is probably one of those.
There are some politicians who have been very supportive of gaming and gaming expansion, but they are against online gaming. This isn’t going to be an easy path, but I don’t think it’s going to be impossible.
He doubts that anything about iGaming would take place during the November and December veto sessions, but is more hopeful about further iGaming discussions during the first week of January 2021, when the new state sessions begin. The underage gaming that may take place online and responsible gaming is among the problems Swoik expects to resolve affecting those who might be unwilling to endorse iGaming.
But Swoik said Illinois has the potential to expand its gaming operations with iGaming, with an online sports betting infrastructure in place and other states seeing revenue growth during the pandemic.
“The Internet opens up a whole new way, and with changing times in particular,” Swoik said. I think it’s going to be a long time before people get back to life easily and go to places as much as they have in the past. I assume that iGaming is one way to continue going forward.
Michigan, with legalized online casinos, is the only Midwest state and is looking to be operational in November. In 2021, Iowa is exploring incorporating iGaming.