Illinois Casinos Look to Sports Betting For Revenue Boost

Illinois Casinos Look to Sports Betting For Revenue Boost

ILLINOIS (IRN) — Revenues from Illinois’ 10 casinos have been sliding for more than a decade at least in part because of the state’s smoking ban and the rise of video gambling machines.

Illinois gamblers decided to stay at home and the industry is still trying to lure them back, said Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association.

“Our revenues dropped off about 20 percent from 2007 to 2008 and were just starting to come back up pretty good in 2011. And then video gaming came aboard,” Swoik said.

Revenues are now down 40 percent, to $1.3 billion from the high water mark ten years ago. Gamblers are spending money on video gaming machines, which can be found in many bars, restaurants and truck stops.

Overall, people are still spending money on gaming – just not as much of it is going to the casinos.

“You know, we’re not, we’re not creating any new gamblers,” Swoik said.

That problem could get worse as six more casino licenses are handed out, thanks to SB 690, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last year.

“The market is just saturated,” Swoik said. “All we’re doing is grouping revenues from one venue to another.”

One bright spot in the law is sports wagering. Americans spend more than $150 billion a year on sports wagering, according to the American Gaming Association. And now, Illinois’ casinos are going to be able to get in on that action.

“Sports betting and internet gaming are the two areas that are not [saturated] in Illinois,” Swoik said.

The state is expected to start allowing the first legal sports bets in just a few weeks, Pritzker said in his budget address last month. That means it will be up and running, just in time for the lucrative March Madness tournament, when an expected $8.5 billion is wagered.

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