For Illinois Online Poker, There's Always Next Year For Illinois Online Poker, There's Always Next Year

Illinois has long been on the so-called list of “next states” that could establish a regulated market for real money online poker.

The Land of Lincoln legalized sports betting in June 2019, and there was a sense in the industry — including pokerfuse — that the state could finally be looking toward expanded igaming as a source for revenue.

Other states on the list of “next states” dropped off earlier this year — efforts to legalize online poker fell short in Maryland and Maine in April, followed by New York in May. In Indiana, a scandal from 2023 derailed any hopes of getting igaming expansion across in 2024, and may have impacted 2025, too.

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Still, as recently as mid-May, Illinois was still in play and there were two bills before the General Assembly that still had a shot at passage before the legislature recessed on May 24.

VGTs Torpedoed iGaming Expansion

Alas, that did not happen — and the reason shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.

According to Rep. Edgar Gonzalez Jr. (D-Chicago), the lawmaker who’s had the most luck so far with legislation to expand igaming beyond sports betting, the video gaming terminals (VGT) industry and its allies helped scuttle any chances that his bill, HB 2239, would be considered by the House Gaming Committee.

The bill would have legalized online casino gaming and poker in the Land of Lincoln, and taxed both at 15%. It also would have qualified licensees to operate up to three skins for online casino, and Illinois online poker would have been authorized to launch multi-state poker, too.

“Our priority this session was the budget, and although igaming was presented as a potential new revenue stream for the state, members of the House and Senate were wary of its implementation, especially after VGTs expressed opposition to the bill,” Gonzalez told Poker Industry PRO in an exclusive interview.

Illinois has far more VGTs in non-casino locations than any other US state — there were such 47,047 machines last year, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA). Nevada had the second-most VGTs in non-casino locations, with 19,250. Also, more than 40% of tax revenue from igaming revenue in 2023 came from VGTs.

Despite what is expected to be continued opposition from Gonzalez said he plans to introduce legislation similar to HB 2239 during the 2025-2026 session, which starts in January.

“The momentum is in our favor,” Gonzalez told PRO. He added, “Next year we will face another tough budget year, and looking for more revenue will definitely make members look at igaming as a salvo for any deficit we might face.”

Revenue could be the deciding factor. Consider that analysts with Morgan Stanley projected igaming expansion would be a windfall for Illinois, with an estimated $868 million from igaming revenue in 2024.

It should be noted that the Morgan Stanley report assumed online poker and casino would be legalized in 2023; the report itself was released one year earlier, in May 2022.

Sports Betting Tax Hike Changes Landscape

In a twist, the fact that Illinois just hiked its tax rate for sports betting could help get online casino (and poker) legalized sooner rather than later.

Last May, lawmakers passed a bill to replace the state’s 15% tax on sports betting with a progressive rate that starts at 20% and goes up to 40% depending on an operator’s annual gross revenue.

“A hike in sports betting taxes now means it won’t be a solution next time, so any other solution will have to look elsewhere for a bigger tax or a new tax,” Gonzalez told PRO. “iGaming will be new revenue, so it will be a new tax — logically, this would be an appropriate next step.”

BetMGM and the other three members of the Sports Betting Alliance (SBA) — DraftKings, Fanatics, and FanDuel — came out against the tax hike, along with other sportsbooks, to no avail.

But we believe BetMGM, PokerStars, WSOP, and Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive (RSI) will want to launch their online poker platforms in the Land of Lincoln, regardless of whether or not it has multi-state poker. RSI would deploy its flagship brand for BetRivers Poker.