Commission: Adding video gambling was like adding 24 new casinos
The addition of video gambling in Illinois is now the equivalent of having more than 24 casinos.
That's according to details from the recently released "Wagering in Illinois" annual report issued by the state legislature's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. The report tracks gambling revenue the state received during its last full fiscal year, which ran from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.
All told, the state's haul from taxes and revenue sharing for all types of gambling increased 3.5 percent from 2017 to $1.36 billion in 2018. That's despite a $6 million decline in lottery revenue sharing, which is the largest gambling revenue generator for the state. The state received $732 million from lottery sales in 2018, according to the report.
Video gambling revenue continued to grow, as did the number of terminals. In 2017, the state generated $301 million from 26,873 terminals, or roughly $11,200 per machine. This past fiscal year, the state received $352 million from 29,283 terminals, more than $12,000 per machine. That's without any terminals operating in Chicago.
The state determined the video gambling terminals equate to 24 casinos because casinos in Illinois are capped at a 1,200 "gaming positions" per facility. The state's 10 casinos generated $272 million in 2018 for the state, an average of $27.2 million per casino. By comparison, 1,200 video gambling terminals generated an average of $14.4 million last year.
Casino revenue was led by Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, which was one of only two casinos to post an increase from 2017 to 2018. The other casino to generate more revenue last year was the Joliet Hollywood Casino.
The introduction of video gambling has eroded casino revenue over the years. Despite that, there is a push to add a casino in Chicago and up to five more throughout the state. There's also been talk of increasing the casinos' gaming positions.
"We don't think we need any more brick and mortar casinos in the state," said Tom Swoik, executive director the Illinois Casino Gaming Association. "We do think the legalization of sports betting will help now that the Supreme Court has ruled states can allow it if they want."
Casinos are pushing for legislation to allow betting on sports within the casinos or online using the casinos' wagering platforms. Swoik estimates sports betting would generate roughly $50 million to $100 million a year in tax revenue for the state. He added the key is not making the tax too high that people will continue to bet illegally with bookies.
State officials are also examining legislation that would regulate online betting and fantasy sports as well, according to the report.
Horse racing revenue remained stagnant at about $6 million in 2018, with most of that coming from Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights. The owners of Arlington are also negotiating to purchase Rivers Casino, it was recently announced. What that means to the casino industry's long standing fight to keep slot machines and other betting out of race tracks is unclear.
Other wagering revenue from bingo, pull-tabs, raffles and other traditional charitable games dipped for a fifth consecutive year to $4.7 million. Before video gambling, this array of miscellaneous gambling generated almost $7.5 million in 2013.