While moving at a deliberate pace to go live with regulated sports betting after signing a massive gaming expansion bill last summer, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is confident bettors will be able to place wagers in time for the NCAA “March Madness” college basketball tournament next month.
“The governor is pleased that Illinois sportsbooks will open for business by March Madness, generating revenue to rebuild universities, hospitals, and other facilities across the state,” said Jordan Abudayyeh, Pritzker’s press secretary, ahead of Tuesday’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules in which the Phase 1 sports rules will be addressed after their inclusion into the state’s registry.
“Illinois’ largest-ever capital plan, with investments in every part of the state, Rebuild Illinois was supported by Democrats and Republicans alike because it will create and support over half a million jobs over the next six years,” Abudayyeh added.
No worries about repeal
Late Friday, Illinois state representative Alan Skillicorn filed HB5561 calling for a complete repeal of the gaming portion of Pritzker’s bill. Skillicorn’s bill, though, did not have any sponsors and is not expected to get much traction in Springfield given the bipartisan support the gaming bill enjoyed before the governor signed it into law.
The Illinois Gaming Board has applications for sports betting licenses from Midwest Gaming and Entertainment, LLC, which runs Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, the Argosy Casino in Alton, and Elgin Riverboat Resort, which runs Grand Victoria Casino. All three applied in January, and all three were granted temporary operating permits without being approved for wagering. As of 11 a.m. CST on Monday, the website does not list any applicants to be Tier 2 official league data providers, which was mandated in the bill.
Of the three casinos that have applied for a sports betting license, it appears the Argosy Casino is the frontrunner to be the first sportsbook to open. The Argosy is located along the Illinois-Missouri border approximately 20 miles north of St. Louis, near the first riverboat casino to open in the state of Illinois, the Alton Belle Casino in 1991.
The IGB released the Phase 1 rules in December before moving the Phase 2 rules to the registry Friday. The Phase 2 rules were given emergency status, which would allow sports betting to take place provided an applicant completely fulfills all the requirements. It also opened the 45-day period for public comment on the Phase 2 rules package.
Photo by Mike Granse / USA Today Sports