VGT Investors Set to Oppose iGaming Expansion in Illinois

With two Bills pushing for igaming expansion in Illinois, a strong opposition from VGT investors is expected to slow down the efforts and potentially delay the expansion past 2024.
VGT Investors Set to Oppose iGaming Expansion in Illinois
Grzegorz Zdanowski, Pexels
February 27, 2024

The igaming expansion process in the US has been a slow and painful one. Illinois is one of the states currently on the cusp of pushing through igaming regulation, with two separate online gambling bills making their way through the committees. Still, they are already set to meet plenty of opposition.

In 2023, the various gambling businesses in Illinois have generated $2 billion in revenue, and there is plenty of interest in pushing this number even further.

The expansion of gambling into the online space would be one way to do so, which is why two separate Bills are currently being looked at by the House and the Senate, respectively. These Bills would allow existing casinos and racetracks to have up to three online casino and poker skins, which would be taxed at 15%.

While these Bills, which have bipartisan support, would allow operators like GGPoker or BetMGM Casino to step into the arena, launching Illinois online poker and casino games. But they will meet lots of resistance. Namely, the countless small business owners who have invested in video gaming terminals (VGT) are likely to put up a fierce fight against gaming.

A Huge VGT Market in Illinois

If you go to most states across the US, the only place you will find slot machines or anything that resembles them is in casinos.

This is not the case in Illinois, as legal VGTs can be found in over 8,800 locations, with 46,000 such machines currently deployed at gas stations, restaurants, truck stops, bars, and convenience stores in Chicago and beyond.

In 2023, VGTs have been the second biggest contributor to the gaming revenue numbers, generating $814 million of the $2 billion sum. Only the state lottery, with $872 million, contributed more, and that paints a pretty clear picture of just how big VGTs are in Illinois.

With further brick-and-mortar casinos set to be constructed in Illinois in the coming years as well, it is understandable that business owners who have invested in VGTs are concerned that there will be too much competition for the gaming dollar is online casinos and online poker are also allowed to thrive.

Does Illinois iGaming Stand a Chance?

According to Pokerfuse, the gaming market in Illinois is getting quite saturated, and the expansion means that there are likely to be some winners and some losers in the space.

VGTs, in particular, may end up being a loser, as competing with big casino brands will be difficult. However, the ease of access is something that will work in favor of businesses offering VGTs.

It is for that exact reason that those businesses are likely to stand up to igaming expansion in a big way, as nothing offers as much ease of access as online casinos, and online casino regulation could mean many VGT locations end up being on the losing end.

While igaming expansion would put a lot of pressure on the already oversaturated VGT marketplace, lawmakers will have to decide whether or not it’s worth it and whether igaming brands deserve their fair chance to compete for a share of the massive gaming market.

The bipartisan support that currently exists for the Bills could be enough to push one of them through, but it remains to be seen just how big of an opposition VGT investors will put up over the coming months.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling (VACPG) helpline at 1-888-532-3500

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