The 15 Illinois casinos took in $1.52 billion for the year, according to state regulators, representing a 12.8% improvement on the 2022 mark of $1.35 billion.
The boost was propelled by a dazzling December, as $141.2 million was collected during those 31 days – up almost 10% from the November numbers.
The dominant casino in the state is Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, a northern suburb of Chicago located near Chicago O’Hare International Airport that drew 3.1 million visitors last year in its 13th year of operation.
Its $538.7 million in gross revenue far outpaced its nearest competitors – Grand Victoria Casino in the western Chicago suburb of Elgin ($150.1 million) and Harrah’s Joliet Casino and Hotel ($131.4 million).
No other casino in the state reached the $100 million mark, with Hollywood Casino Aurora ($97.6 million) and Hollywood Casino Joliet ($91.3 million) coming closest to that figure.
Rivers Casino – with a 78,000 square foot footprint that is double that of a typical casino in Illinois – is even more dominant in the realm of table games such as blackjack and roulette, taking in $207.8 million of the state’s casino industry total of $368.8 million in 2023.
Bally’s Chicago casino – which just opened in September – may be a formidable rival in 2024, as it placed fourth overall in December revenue at $8.5 million.
The temporary facility recently announced a change in the casino’s hours of operation.
“Opening our doors 24/7 is an important step as we continue to increase our visitation,” Mark Wong, vice president and general manager of Bally’s Chicago, said in a statement. “This is a progression toward attaining the goals we set out to achieve and gives us similar hours to other local casino properties.”
Meanwhile, Bally’s Chicago President George Papanier had a recent update on construction of the permanent facility.
“We expect construction of the permanent facility to commence in the second half of 2024 once the [current tenant, Tribune Company, exits] the premises in July,” Papanier said.
The biggest boost in casino revenue came in March (up 13.9%) and July (9%), with December next-best at an 8.3% rise compared to December 2022.
The higher tax rate for slot machines left Rivers Casino paying $180.6 million in overall taxes out of the $408.7 million distributed to the state and local municipalities.
Illinois was just the second state in the U.S. to legalize riverboat gaming, which launched in September 1991 at Argosy Casino Alton in the St. Louis, Mo, suburbs. Argosy Casino’s glory days are in the past, as the location took in the least amount of revenue ($34.3 million) of all of the state’s casinos that were in operation for all of 2023. As often happens, the opening of Argosy led neighboring Missouri to launch its own casino industry just three years later.
Online Casino Gaming on the Horizon in 2024?
Supporters of legalizing online casino gaming in Illinois can point to the strong 2023 casino figures as proof that the brick-and-mortar facilities are in no serious jeopardy from potential competition from those sites.
But opponents can counter that it would not be wise to “rock the boat” and risk seeing that $400 million-+ tax figure plummet.
The Internet Gaming Act (IGA)was introduced in the legislature in Illinois in 2021, but it has languished each year and may meet the same fate in 2024. The bill would set an online casino gaming tax of an industry-standard 15%.
The reason is unique to Illinois. While a number of other states have legalized video gaming terminals (VGTs), Illinois is by far the national leader with more than 46,000 terminals in more than 8,400 truck stops, bars, restaurants, and “mom-and-pop” small business sites.
The Video Gaming Act legalizing the terminals was enacted in July 2009.
The slot machine-like devices are taxed at a rate of 34%, and the result is that the total annual tax revenue generated from the machines is more than what is paid by brick-and-mortar casino operators.
The relative ubiquity of the machines means that most Illinois residents are within just minutes of being able to sit down and gamble legally. But online casino gaming means that participants never even have to leave their residences, so it no doubt would significantly impact VGT revenue – and thereby the nearly $1 billion in annual taxes currently collected.
The Illinois General Assembly, consisting of the state’s House of Representatives and Senate, convened on Jan. 16 at the state capitol in Springfield and remains in session until May 31. The IGA versions in both the House and Senate were referred to the respective Executive Committees in early January, but there does not yet appear to be any momentum for the online casino gaming bill in either chamber.
In other state gambling news, state regulators just announced that a record $1.3 billion was wagered in the state in November, clinching the state’s status as No. 3 in the country in betting handle behind only New York and New Jersey. Hard Rock Bet is expected to launch in Illinois in early 2024 as the ninth sportsbook.