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Illinois stands to benefit from legalizing online gaming

Much like the proven success of legal sports betting, legal I-Gaming will attract customers to a better, safer experience that can be regulated and taxed by the state.

An Atlantic City, New Jersey casino-goer. Illinois should maximize the benefits of regulated online gaming, an industry executive writes.
An Atlantic City, New Jersey casino-goer. Illinois should maximize the benefits of regulated online gaming, an industry executive writes.
Wayne Parry/AP Photos

September was a historic month for sports betting, as New Jersey became the first state to handle a billion dollars of sports bets in a single month. The public’s appetite for legal sports betting all over the country has been strong, but the growth of this phenomenon in New Jersey has been particularly impressive. This year alone, New Jersey has seen sports betting revenue increase 150%, and the state already has taken in a massive $65 million in tax revenue year to date.

This trend shows that the legalization of sports betting is drawing this once-clandestine activity into the light, as customers increasingly choose to place their bets with trusted, regulated companies instead of offshore websites or local bookies. The result is a win-win — customers get peace of mind and states cash in with tax revenue that is already exceeding most experts’ rosiest projections.

Illinois has certainly done well with regulated sports betting, as evidenced by the $400 million in bets placed in the month of August. But it’s worth taking a look at why New Jersey still is blowing the Land of Lincoln out of the water, and what Illinois can do to maximize the benefits of regulated online gaming.

To start, Illinois must allow these mobile sports betting platforms to offer additional games, including traditional casino games. I-Gaming, as it is popularly known, is the digital alternative to taking a trip to a land-based casino. Much like streaming has become the alternative for Americans who don’t always want the movie theater experience, I-Gaming allows people to enjoy casino games from the comfort and convenience of their home. New Jersey has had I-Gaming since 2013 and it’s been a tremendous success, generating additional revenue for the state without diminishing revenue from brick-and-mortar casinos.

This September, New Jersey generated $18.5 million in tax revenue from I-Gaming alone, bringing the total to nearly $150 million year-to-date. It is also the perfect complement to sports betting, as the two working products combine to offer a seamless entertainment experience. People in Illinois today can log in to an offshore website or app and play blackjack with a dealer (or bot) in Costa Rica, so why not here? Much like the proven success of legal sports betting, legal I-Gaming will attract customers to a better, safer experience that can be regulated and taxed by the state.

Track betting activity to prevent gambling problems

Of course, the first question most people have is whether regulated I-Gaming is safe. The answer is unequivocally yes. But the same cannot be said of the dozens of offshore casinos that are eager for your credit card number. They offer very little assurance of getting paid back if you win, or that your personal information won’t be sold on to others. Providing a legal, safe, and regulated alternative to a risky, but widespread, activity is just good policy.

Additionally, I-Gaming allows casinos to track a person’s betting activity and uses state-of-the-art technology to assess risk and offer interventions aimed at reducing problem gambling issues.

Compared to the anonymity of playing table games or slot machines at brick-and-mortar casinos or pumping quarters into one of the states’ 40,000-plus video gaming terminals, I-Gaming offers the state next-generation player protection that comes with advanced tracking and data science to intervene early to reduce gambling-related harm.

Illinois already has seen the benefits of online sports betting, but now it’s time for the state to take the next step and modernize the digital casino experience. If implemented correctly, I-Gaming has the potential to add safely and effectively upwards of $200 million to the states’ bottom line. For that reason, I urge Illinois lawmakers to make I-Gaming legislation a priority in the 2022 session.

Charles Gillespie is Chief Executive of Gambling.com Group (Nasdaq: GAMB) and a global leader in the online gaming industry.

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