Reset: The State Of Sports Betting In The State Of Illinois

The Prairie State remains one of the most fluid sports betting markets in the country due to changing remote registration rules.
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Chicago may be “that toddlin’ town,” as Frank Sinatra once sang, but it was the state of Illinois which saw significant action on the sports betting front last week as two more sportsbooks opened. Additionally, remote registration is again available — at least until Sept. 19 thanks to Gov. J.B. Pritzker reissuing Executive Order 2020-41 through his most recent one — Executive Order 2020-52 — late Friday.

With the potential of more action on multiple fronts this week — be it more sportsbook openings or mobile launches at existing ones — now seemed like an ideal moment to take stock of who is fully operational with retail and remote, who is operational, and who is close to operational.

These statuses are as of the start of business Monday, Aug. 24, but it would not be surprising if some of them changed by week’s end.

Group 1: The fully operational with retail and mobile

Illinois currently has two sportsbooks that offer both retail and mobile — BetRivers through Rivers Casino in Des Plaines and DraftKings through Casino Queen in East St. Louis. BetRivers was the first to market on both fronts, launching on the retail side in March and via online in mid-June shortly after Pritzker originally issued Executive Order 2020-41.

DraftKings, which rebranded Casino Queen after entering into a market-share agreement, went live Aug. 5, and it is the one with the most to gain from Pritzker’s Executive Order from Friday. Casino Queen is currently operating under a limited capacity of 25% and reduced hours — closing nightly at 11 p.m. — as part of further mitigation taken in the southwest Illinois region (Region 4) to combat a rise in positive rates of COVID-19.

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Pritzker re-issuing his Executive Order is also another chapter in the ongoing feud among Rush Street Interactive, DraftKings, and FanDuel with relation to the “penalty box” provision of the law the governor signed when legalizing sports betting in June 2019. Both online titans opted to find a workaround to the 18-month period they would have had to wait to apply for an online-only license after the first retail one was issued, a clock that began this June when the Illinois Gaming Board issued seven sports wagering licenses.

It also lessened their price tag for a sports betting license, which is $10 million for retail compared to $20 million for an online-only one.

Screenshot via AlTruda73 Twitter account

Robins since deleted his tweet, but it points to the potential and value of the Illinois market. While DraftKings may not have been first overall to the mobile sports betting market in the state, beating FanDuel (more on them later) into Illinois still qualifies as a small victory.

Group 2: You can bet with us, but you have to come see us

This group includes four sportsbooks that can accept wagers, but currently only in-person. Three of the four — William Hill at Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, and the Hollywood Casinos via Penn Gaming in Aurora and Joliet — opened this month, and the Hollywood Casinos took their first respective wagers this past Thursday.

The fourth, the Argosy Casino Alton, has been operational since March. The Argosy, though, is also in Region 4 for the state’s COVID-19 response plans and is operating with the same reduced capacity and limited hours under mitigation rules as Casino Queen.

Of these sportsbooks, William Hill appears most likely to be the next sportsbook to have mobile betting available. Neither Argosy Casino Alton nor the two Hollywood Casinos have made the request to the IGB to commence online wagering at this time.

It is also worth noting that of the six sportsbooks currently operational in Illinois, five have betting lines furnished by Kambi.

Group 3: Licensed, but waiting to launch

This group has the remaining two venues — Hawthorne Race Course and Par-A-Dice Casino — that have been granted sports wagering licenses by the IGB but have yet to commence operations. Hawthorne is the lone horse racing track of the three in the state to have been granted a license — Fairmount Park is still having its application reviewed and Arlington International Racecourse parent company Churchill Downs Inc. withdrew its application to have sports wagering at Arlington Park.

Churchill Downs also owns a majority stake in Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, which is 15 miles from Arlington Park, and recently told investors there are no plans to continue live racing beyond 2021. CEO William Carstanjen even raised the possibility of there being no live racing after this year.

Hawthorne, which was granted its license last month, entered a 20-year agreement with PointsBet in July 2019 shortly after sports betting became legal and is in the process of attempting to expand into a racino. The expectation is Hawthorne will launch soon, and PointsBet has picked out the three off-track betting locations — Prospect Heights, Oakbrook Terrace, and Crestwood — for its sportsbook sites as allowed by law.

Originally, FanDuel planned to enter the Illinois market through Fairmount Park — even filing with the Illinois Secretary of State in January to change the name of the venue to “FanDuel Sports and Horse Racing” — but made the surprising pivot to Par-A-Dice last week and will utilize its partnership with Boyd Gaming for the Peoria location.

FanDuel received its temporary operating permit last month, while Par-A-Dice was one of the seven casinos to be granted a sports betting license in June. It remains to be seen how FanDuel will co-brand with Par-A-Dice, but it does appear FanDuel will have two retail locations and two online partners should Fairmount Park be granted a license as expected.

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