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Illinois Gaming Market

Then & Now: A History of Gaming in Illinois

December 6, 2017

It goes without saying that the history of gambling (that is, participating in games of chance) dates back into the early years of history. It is difficult to trace the exact date when games of chance became widely popular in the United States. In truth, gambling has been going on far longer than the United States, as we know it, even existed!

If you’re interested in taking an immersive look, gambling.net has published a timeline with milestones in gambling’s (very) long history. The earliest recorded example of humans competing for the “luck of the draw” comes from ancient China. Ceramic tiles dating back to 2300BC were unearthed, along with texts suggesting that they were used for a lottery-style game. There is evidence that funds gleaned from this game were used towards state works, similar to the way that gambling taxes are allocated in society today. Some research even suggests that these funds could have been used to construct the Great Wall of China!

Fast forward thousands of years and you’ll find that Illinois in particular has an interesting history with legalized gambling. Gambling within the state of Illinois goes back to the 1800’s, when there were problems with numerous unlicensed riverboat casinos and the clientele that they attracted. It seemed, even when the practice was made illegal, gambling still was commonplace among many social circles. Making it illegal only opened the door to individuals illegally operating and profiting, rather than the state, who could fund public works with a taxed portion of the profits.Download this guide to gaming revenue

The 1920’s saw the legalization of horse race betting, which would kickstart an entire industry of tourism and revenue. After making strides to change the legal status of gambling, social perception began to change. The races were a romanticized place to dress up, see and be seen, and of course participate in wagers. From here, the growth and popularity of gambling would skyrocket.  Horse racing remained incredibly popular in Illinois until recent years.  Currently, the Illinois Racing Board regulates horse racing at three racetracks in the state.

Illinois was the first to legislate a state lottery in 1974. Profits from the sale of lottery tickets have continued to grow since then. In 2015, the total was $2.85 billion for lottery sales. A portion of this profit obviously went to the winner of the lottery, as well as other expenses, but $679 million of this went to public schools.

 That’s no small chunk of change!  From an online perspective, Illinois was the first state to allow the sale of lottery tickets on the internet.

Illinois also has charitable gaming, regulated by the Illinois Department of Revenue, including bingo and pull tabs.

In 1990, the Riverboat Gambling Act became law, and Illinois opened its first riverboat casino in Alton in 1991.  Riverboat casinos were once required to move along the waterways while gambling was taking place, but the law changed and casinos were allowed to be permanently docked in 1999.  Today, there are ten licensed casinos operating throughout the state.  

The Video Gaming Act, which became law in 2009, further expanded gaming in Illinois by allowing for video gaming terminals (VGTs) to be placed in licensed liquor-pouring establishments, truck stops, fraternal and veterans clubs throughout the state.

Since then, the profits from VGTs have continued to climb exponentially. In October 2017 alone, for instance, 27,842 VGTs operating in 6,296 licensed locations garnered total profits of $111.8 million.  To compare, just five years prior in October 2012, 712 VGTs operating in 169 licensed locations garnered profits of $1.3 million.  That means the profits have increased over 100% in the course of five years, along with the number of businesses participating.

As the growth of gambling continues, technology will continue to make strides to accommodate the public’s craving to be entertained. VGT technology is the direct result of this innovation.

Accel Entertainment is pleased to be at the forefront of new technology within the gaming industry. The rapid growth surrounding profits for VGTs benefits all involved, from the businesses we serve, to the municipalities where video gaming takes place, to the state of Illinois as a whole.

It is an honor to be a part of making history!


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