Gambling supports the growth of government revenue
Gambling supports the growth of government revenue

Gambling supports the growth of government revenue

State Sports Revenue Hits High, State Operating Budget Boost: Today’s Juice, by Greg Hinz

Photo: Bloomberg

As Illinois’ income growth remains buoyant during the COVID recovery, a new report underscores a less-recognized cause: gambling.

The state’s revenue from legal betting — whether it’s the racetrack, the lottery, or the video poker machines at your local store — has dropped slightly during the pandemic, mostly because the state’s boat casinos have been shut down.

But with casinos reopening, video games stronger than ever, and sports betting revenue on the rise, the state’s gaming revenue is on its way to a new high.

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According to a report from the Illinois Commission on Budgeting and Government Accountability, the legislature’s tax research unit, the state’s state tax revenue alone for the fiscal year that ended June 30 was $1.877 billion. That’s a 38.8% increase in fiscal 2021 and nearly $500 million more than the fiscal 2019 figure before the disaster.

For a state with an operating budget of nearly $43 billion, that’s a lot of money. Unlike other Illinois taxes such as the sales tax, which excludes many fast-growing service sectors taxed by other states, this provides a strong annual revenue increase.

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This growth is not in traditional betting areas such as racetracks, which have all but disappeared from the state, or casinos, which are seeing a slow but declining tax revenue, partly because the state has lowered the tax rate.

Instead, it is about new areas such as video games, whose taxable income has tripled to $762 million a year since 2017, or sports betting, which is just starting but already brings in $142 million a year.

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All of this is in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars that local governments pay each year. And the numbers do not reflect the impact of new casino revenues approved by the General Assembly, including one in downtown Chicago.

Maybe they should change the line on the license plates from “Land of Lincoln” to “Download Your Fees Now.”


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