Which state is closest for US online poker? Part V: Illinois

The Bean in Chicago, the largest city in Illinois.  Illinois is a strong contender to be the next to legalize online poker and casino gaming.
The Bean in Chicago, the largest city in Illinois.  Illinois is a strong contender to be the next to legalize online poker and casino gaming.
Christopher Alvarenga, unsplash

In this series we will look at six states that are seen as the most likely to offer regulated, legal online poker within the next year. For part five, we’ll focus on Illinois – a state that licensed riverboat casinos back in 1990 and embraced online sports betting 29 years later. Illinois is also on analysts’ radar – the state recently compiled a short list of states that are expected to expand into online poker and casino gaming in the near future.

In states that legalize iGaming, we expect to see revenues roughly double that of sports betting. Online poker for real money in the US is currently legal and operational in five states – Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Illinois could be sixth.

The two lawmakers in the Illinois General Assembly who sponsored a bill in 2021 calling for the expansion of online gambling to include casino games and poker were both re-elected in November.

In the meantime, Morgan Stanley analysts believe that Illinois will be one of the next states to launch online casinos and poker roomsand issued a corresponding report.


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The last attempt failed, but supporters were re-elected

Illinois has legal online sports betting since 2019. Legislation to extend legal iGaming to online casino games and poker was unsuccessful in 2021.

Under House Bill 3142, the state’s land-based casinos and racetracks would have been entitled to have up to three skins for online casino games. The bill, also known as Internet Gambling Lawalso called for the introduction of a tax rate of 12%.

Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) and Jonathan Carroll (D-Northbrook) introduced HB 3142 in February 2021. This month, the bill had its first reading in the state House of Representatives before being referred to the House Rules Committee. The bill was assigned to the House Executive Committee and referred back to the Rules Committee in March 2021, but made no progress.

HB 3142 was important for another reason – * it would have authorized the state to join a multi-state online poker treaty like this Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), allowing poker and some casino games to share liquidity. The bill specifically stated that the Illinois Gaming Board (ITUC) “may enter into arrangements with other jurisdictions to facilitate, administer and regulate multi-jurisdictional internet gaming, including but not limited to poker.”

Carroll defeated Republican Rory Welch in the 57th district race while Rita fielded independent Paris Walker-Thomas, a write-in candidate, in the 28th race.

Morgan Stanley is optimistic about expansion

Last June, analysts at Morgan Stanley released a report on iGaming’s expansion that included revenue forecasts for four states that currently do not offer online poker or online casino – Colorado, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa.

In a 114-page report – US Sports Betting and Online Gambling Primer 3.0published in May – this is what the analysts at Morgan Stanley predicted If Illinois legalized online poker and casino gaming in 2024, the state would generate $868 million in iGaming revenue in 2024. That number increases to $1.3 billion in 2025, $1.5 billion in 2026, $1.6 billion in 2027, and $1.7 billion in 2028.

If these numbers were realized, Illinois would generate more revenue than New Jersey and Pennsylvania by 2028, but still lag behind Michigan. Illinois would dwarf all other states where online poker and casino were either currently legal or expected to be in the near future.

Additionally, Morgan Stanley said, “In the states that legalize iGaming, we expect sports betting revenue to be about double that.” The state reported adjusted gross revenue for fiscal year (FY) 2022 ended June 30 $610 million.

Considering revenue is likely to be slightly lower in an introductory year – as the market is new and it will take time for operators to build customer bases – Morgan Stanley’s estimates for 2025 and beyond with the “double Sports Betting”.

Major poker operators are already active in IL

Three of the largest online poker providers in the US — BetMGM, PokerStarsand WSOP – Already have direct and indirect access in Illinois as they already operate in the state and offer online sports betting. WSOP is owned by Caesars, while PokerStars and FanDuel are both brands of Flutter Entertainment.

A fourth operator, BetRivers, does not currently have a poker platform but does have parent company (and Chicago-based) Rush Street Interactive (RSI) is rumored to be building one after leading the development team behind Phil Galfonds Run It Once Poker (RIO) platform in March.

If BetRivers offered online casino and poker it would likely be through Rivers Casino Des Plaines land-based casino license. a land-based casino built over a few inches of water to comply with Illinois laws governing riverboat gambling. Illinois has since allowed such facilities to move ashore.

BetMGM operates an online sportsbook at the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino, a riverboat in East Peoria. BetMGM would likely offer expanded iGaming through its partnership with Par-A-Dice if online poker and casino gaming were legalized.

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As in neighboring Indiana, PokerStars could launch online poker in Illinois at a facility where FanDuel currently offers sports betting.

In Illinois, FanDuel offers online sports betting through its license from Fairmount Park, a horse racing track in Collinsville. FanDuel also operates a retail sportsbook at Par-A-Dice, but launching there seems unlikely as the online book is through BetMGM.

WSOP could launch through the license of the Grand Victoria Casino, an Elgin Riverboat owned and operated by Caesars.

Caesars also owns two other riverboats – Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel and Harrah’s Metropolis Casino. While ITUC has issued both sports betting licenses, the former has not yet started and the latter has been issued but not authorized to start sports betting.

Potential online poker operators in IL

operator Likely to start poker? Land-based casino partner
BetMGM Yes Par A Dice Hotel Casino
BetRivers Maybe Rivers Casino Des Plaines
PokerStars Yes Fairmount Park
WSOP Yes Grand Victoria Casino

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