Rivers Casino Des Plaines is set to take Illinois’ first legal bet after state lawmakers legalized sports wagering last summer as part of a larger gambling expansion initiative.
The BetRivers Sportsbook will welcome first sports enthusiasts on Monday, March 9. The sports betting facility will open for business at noon after a 10 am ceremony at Rivers Casino.
Professional ice hockey analyst Eddie Olczyk will place the state’s first bet, a spokesperson for the Des Plaines-based casino said this past Friday.
The BetRivers Sportsbook includes a 4,840-square-foot sports bar with a 47-foot-wide video wall. Bettors will be able to place their bets at five betting windows and 30 self-service betting kiosks. There will also be TVs throughout the lounge as well as a full-service bar.
It is also understood that BetRivers will go live with a betting website and a mobile app later this year.
Illinois legalized sports betting in the summer of 2019. Provisions for bringing legal athletic wagering to the state were tacked onto a larger gambling expansion bill that survived through all legislative hurdles and was supported by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.
Some of the tax revenue from legal sports betting would be used to finance the Governor’s ambitious $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital plan.
Sports Betting Coming to Illinois in Time for March Madness
The Monday launch of Rivers Casino’s sportsbook means that Illinois will have at least one betting facility by the start of this year’s March Madness. The basketball tourney traditionally attracts quite a lot of betting action, but prior to the strikedown of the federal ban on athletic gambling in 2018, the majority of that action had taken place on offshore websites.
First reports that Illinois would enter the sports betting fold in time for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament emerged in early February. Back then, the Illinois Gaming Board granted the first three temporary sports betting licenses to state casinos interested to provide wagering services.
Rivers Casino was among the first three casinos to be issued permits. The state gambling regulator granted three more such licenses a few days ago. To date, Argosy Casino Alton, Grand Victoria Casino Elgin, Rivers Casino Des Plaines, the two Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet, and Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino in Peoria have all obtained temporary permits from the Gaming Board.
Under Illinois’ sports betting law, the state’s land-based casinos, racetracks, and sports venues with seating capacity of 17,000 people are eligible to receive sports betting licenses.
Many expected that Argosy Casino would be the first property to launch its retail sportsbook as it has been advertising March Madness start of wagering operations for several weeks.
The state’s casinos will also be able to launch digital sportsbooks in addition to their retail operations. However, the state will only grant three online-only licenses and that will happen 18 months after the start of sports betting. This means that companies like DraftKings and FanDuel will not be able to enter Illinois until at least September 2021.