Revenue from video gaming exceeds state casinos for the first time

WGN Investigates
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For the first time, revenue from video gambling machines exceeds cash generated at the Illinois’s casinos.

The new numbers from the Illinois Gaming Board show fewer people are visiting and gambling at the state’s 10 formerly floating betting barges.

2018 casino revenues were down 2.3 percent and admissions dropped 6.7 percent from the year before.

But comparing January 2009 to the same month this year, there were 420,920 fewer casino gamblers – a drop of 36 percent.

That’s not to say fewer people are placing bets in Illinois. They’re just changing where they do it.

Just released numbers show revenue from video gaming machines in bars and restaurants across the state exceeded casino revenue last year. The nearly $1.5 billion in video gaming bets was up 15 percent over the previous year.

It has some calling into question whether a new casino should be in the cards.

In December, Governor Pritzker said, “I have not taken a position yet on having a Chicago casino or what that would look like for the state or the city of Chicago but I must say, as I said during the course of the campaign, we have to look at gaming as a way to fund some of the infrastructure plans for the state.”

The state’s busiest and most profitable casino by far continues to be the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, followed by the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin.

Casinos may face an even bigger challenge if sports betting becomes legal in Illinois lawmakers are expected to vote on that in the coming months.


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