Illinois iGaming Legislation Could be Shut Down in 2024

Despite initial excitement, Illinois online casino legislation is facing significant hurdles, one of them being concerns by video gaming terminal operators.

Illinois iGaming Legislation Could be Shut Down in 2024

The prospect of online casino legislation in Illinois has hit a roadblock, with no plans for a hearing in the immediate future. Despite initial excitement surrounding the House Gaming Committee’s scheduled hearing on the topic, it was quickly canceled, leaving proponents of online casino legislation disappointed.

The chairman of the House Gaming Committee, Dan Didech, clarified that the hearing was never actually scheduled, dampening hopes for progress in this area.

Illinois House Bill 2239, introduced by Rep. Edgar Gonzalez, had been assigned to the gaming committee but without any immediate plans for advancement. Gonzalez acknowledged that there are apprehensions among legislators regarding the bill and believed that more groundwork needs to be laid before a public-facing subject matter hearing can take place. He said he is currently focused on educating fellow members about the benefits of online casino legislation.

Similarly, Sen. Cristina Castro’s SB 1656, introduced in the Senate, has also been carried over from the previous session with no plans for a hearing at the moment. As the chair of the executive committee, Castro believes it is too early to determine the fate of the proposal, considering that bills are still being filed and committees are just beginning to meet.

The lack of progress on online casino legislation can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, the Illinois Gaming Board is still in the process of implementing the last gambling expansion authorized by the legislature in 2019, which included online sports betting. With the focus on completing this implementation, there is limited bandwidth for addressing online casino legislation.

Additionally, the video gaming terminal (VGT) industry in Illinois, which has become a significant part of the gaming industry, is concerned about the potential impact of online casinos on their revenue. VGTs, found in bars, taverns, gas stations and truck stops, contribute more tax revenue to the state than Illinois casinos and sports betting combined. Operators argue that online casinos would directly compete with their convenience gaming offerings, potentially jeopardizing their bottom line.

VGT operators argue that their market needs to grow and stabilize before considering any new forms of gambling.

Rep. Gonzalez acknowledged these concerns and believes that open dialogue between VGT representatives and online casino advocates could lead to a better understanding of the potential impacts and a possible path forward. He hopes to facilitate constructive conversations between the two sides to find common ground.

One potential compromise that has been mentioned involves offering VGT operators access to the lucrative Chicago market in exchange for dropping their opposition to online casino legislation. The city of Chicago, which has opted out of VGT licensing, is facing financial challenges, and expanding VGTs in the city could provide a much-needed revenue stream.

However, the prospects for online casino legislation in Illinois remain uncertain. Chairman Didech recognized the growing trend of iGaming across the country and believes that eventually, Illinois will follow suit. However, the timing and the impact on the existing gaming industry are still open questions. The gaming committee is unlikely to hold a hearing until after the Illinois primary election on March 19.

Rep. Gonzalez acknowledged that progress on online casino legislation may be limited in an election year. However, he emphasized the importance of starting conversations now to be prepared for future considerations. He believes that regulated online poker, in particular, would resonate with his generation and advocates for safe online gambling options.