A state representative introduced HB2239 to legalize Illinois online casino gambling. The bill’s primary sponsor, state Rep. Edgar Gonzalez Jr. (D-Chicago), listed a 15% tax rate in his proposed legislation on Feb. 8.
At that rate, Bonus predicts the Internet Gaming Act (IGA) – to be created if HB2239 becomes law – will mean $240 million in yearly tax revenue for Illinois. That 15% rate on proposed online casino gambling is the same as in the 2021-2022 version of the IGA. It’s also what the seven Illinois online sportsbook operators currently pay.
The online gambling industry has listed Illinois as a favorite next state to legalize online casinos for a couple of years because online sports betting launched there in 2020.
However, 2022 saw no IGA proposal, and 2021 efforts died in committee on April 28, 2021. The cause of death appeared to be retail casinos’ fear that online casinos would cannibalize their income if the only objection raised during the committee hearing was any indication. BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt predicted on Jan. 26 that cannibalization fears would kill all iGaming efforts this year.
So this year, all eyes will be on the Illinois General Assembly until it adjourns on May 19.
Illinois Online Casino Bill Details
If the bill does become law, it says internet gaming licensees can offer up to three skins each. BetMGM Casino is an example of an online casino skin.
Also, Illinois online casino gamblers can use just one site if they like. For instance, DraftKings Casino can be their choice if they use the Illinois DraftKings Sportsbook.
That’s because the bill says:
Nothing in this Act prohibits the use of a single account for a sports wagering account under the Sports Wagering Act and the Internet wagering account set forth under this Act.
An Illinois online casino license will cost $250,000 and $100,000 to renew, every four years. That’s a reduction from the 2021-2022 proposal, which had a $500,000 up-front cost and a $250,000 renewal fee.
Suppliers can purchase a license for $75,000, or $50,000 “for applicants holding a supplier license issued under other Illinois law.” They’ll also pay a $50,000 renewal fee every four years.
Servers can be located out of state, but within the US, during the first year of the IGA. After that, they must be in Illinois.
However, the IGA surprisingly allows for live dealer studios to be located out of state:
‘Internet game’ means an Internet-based version or substantial equivalent of a gambling game, slot machine, poker, table game, or any other game approved by the Board, including, but not limited to, simulcasted live-dealer versions of casino games in which an individual wagers money or something of monetary value for the opportunity to win money or something of monetary value, and which is accessed by an Internet-connected computer or mobile device.
West Virginia is the only US online casino state that allows live dealer games to be streamed on its sites from other states. In the case of the Mountain State, the simulcast comes from Pennsylvania.
What’s Not in the Bill
The bill doesn’t contain a possible launch date. That may be because Illinois sportsbooks proved that launches take time. Lawmakers approved online sports betting in Spring 2019, but one app finally launched on June 18, 2020.
However, it does include provisions to expedite launch, similar to the 2021-2022 IGA. It directs the Illinois Gaming Board to adopt emergency rules within 90 days of the bill becoming law and to emulate, as much as possible, policies already in use in other states. Companies already holding Illinois sports betting licenses or online casino licenses in other states would benefit from a rapid licensing process under the IGA.
Unlike the 2021 bill, the 2023 measure proposed by Gonzalez doesn’t require Illinois online casino gamblers to register for accounts in person at retail casinos for the first six months of the new marketplace.
Instead, HB2239 says:
Eligible persons seeking to establish Internet wagering accounts may do so in person at a casino or racetrack or over the Internet without appearing in person.
That wasn’t the case in the 2021 bill, which would’ve meant 3 million of Illinois’ 13 million residents might’ve had to travel outside of Chicago to register. However, the current bill doesn’t include that language. Plus, CBS Chicago reports today that the Illinois Gaming Board is meeting on Thursday to approve a temporary Bally’s Casino at Medinah Temple on Ohio Street in River North. Bally’s is building a permanent retail casino in Chicago’s River West neighborhood.
Homage to Illinois History
In this era of tech layoffs, one passage in the Illinois online casino bill stands out:
The Board may not issue an Internet gaming license to an owners licensee or organization licensee that has reduced the size of its workforce by 25% or more since February 28, 2020. The Board may not renew the Internet gaming license of any owners licensee or organization licensee that has reduced the size of its workforce by 25% since the date its last 24 Internet gaming license was issued or renewed.
Perhaps it’s an homage to the state’s history of strong unions advocating for workers’ rights.
At the same time, Bally’s is building the Chicago casino. However, that company is also laying off 15% of its Bally’s Interactive employees, Legal Sports Report said on Jan. 18.
Bally’s Interactive is the Bally’s digital division with brands including Bally Casino, Virgin Casino, Bally Bet, and Monkey Knife Fight.