Illinois Issues 7 Sports Betting Licenses
Seven Illinois casinos, including Elgin’s Grand Victoria (l.), were granted sports betting licenses by the state Gaming Board. The move triggers the 18-month penalty box that DFS companies FanDuel and DraftKings will have to endure unless they make a deal with an existing casino or racetrack.
Sports betting is one step closer in Illinois now that the state regulators have granted licenses to seven state casinos. Two casinos had already accepted bets prior to the Covid-19 lockdown that started in March—Rivers Casinos in Des Plaines and the Argosy casino in Alton—and five more were added last week— Grand Victoria in Elgin, the Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet, Par-A-Dice in East Peoria and the Casino Queen in East St. Louis. There are 10 casinos in total in Illinois.
The approval also begins an 18-month “penalty box” that the Illinois legislation punished DFS operators FanDuel and DraftKings for operating their DFS operations in the state with approval in 2017-18. And when they are released from the box, the two will be forced to pay a $20 million licensing fee each. But in an effort to shorten that time, FanDuel has been in talks to buy Fairmont Park racetrack, outside of St Louis, which would give it immediate access to the sports betting market. DraftKings meanwhile is said to be in talks with Caesars Entertainment to partner with Harrah’s Joliet on a sports betting venture. Neither deal has been completed at this time.
With the head start, Illinois casinos hope to even the playing field a bit with the DFS companies that have become the market leaders in states where they entered on an equal basis with casinos. In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana and other states, the DFS companies combined control up to 80 percent of the market.
The state’s three racetracks are also approved for sports betting but have not yet been approved. And large sports facilities like Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Soldier Field are eligible for sports betting but have yet to apply.
Last week, Governor JD Pritzker permitted registrations at online sports betting sites to proceed. The law has previously said that registration must be done in person, but with the Covid-19 lockdown dragging on in Illinois, Pritzker has permitted bettors to open an account and begin wagering from their homes. However the state Gaming Board must approve requests for online wagering from each entity and as of last week, not approvals had been sought.
“Every licensee is treated independently and there is no set timetable to commence wagering. Requests will be granted once received if the licensees meet all necessary requirements,” Gaming Board policy director Joe Miller told the Chicago Sun-Times.