Illinois Gaming

The Chicago Cubs opened up 2020 with a 15 to 1 chance to win the World Series. The Chicago White Sox were at 16 to 1 odds. This means that for every dollar wagered, a bettor can win $15 or $16. In other words, the Chicago Cubs had a 6.25% probability of winning the World Series, and the Chicago White Sox held a 5.88% chance, respectively.

These are rather good odds, with remarkable upside if your favorite Chicago baseball team manages to push through the laborious MLB season. Unfortunately, many bettors in Illinois were not able to experience the excitement of making a World Series wager at the beginning of the MLB season due to the sports world coming to a sudden halt. Not only do excited bettors miss out on making a wager for their beloved Cubbies, but the State of Illinois will miss the potential revenue derived from sports wagering and the expansion of gaming (additional video gaming terminals and casinos).

The unprecedent impact of COVID-19 on the Illinois economy will be felt for years to come. Currently, Illinois is looking at an unemployment rate above 5%, and a projected revenue shortfall of $7.3 billion over the next two fiscal years.

At a time when Illinois was relying on increased revenues from gaming to help fund vertical capital projects, this pandemic could have not occurred at a worse time.

Below is an illustration of previous revenues brought in from traditional casino games, and video gaming (VGTs) during the months of March through June in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Looking at the Illinois Gaming Board figures above, it is safe to assume that the state would have seen more revenue generated from sports wagering and gaming expansion. Even without the injection of sports wagering and expanded gaming (more casinos and VGTs), Illinois would have obtained at least $335,500,000 in tax revenue if the trend line continued.

Illinois will be looking at a different type of gaming environment after the COVID-19 pandemic. Market disruption and uncertainty will play a significant role in kickstarting the gaming sector. Disposable income will not be as widely available as it once was, and the Illinois consumer will likely develop different habits and priorities.

There is an inexplicable amount of damage inflicted by COVID-19, and this should strengthen the State to reevaluate how to engage with the salient business interests that survive. That includes the gaming industry.

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