Legal sports betting is coming to Illinois and odds are that this is going to happen right in time for the upcoming March Madness tournament.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s press secretary, Jordan Abudayyeh, said in a statement this week that the state’s top official “is pleased that Illinois sportsbooks will open for business by March Madness, generating revenue to rebuild universities, hospital, and other facilities across the state.”
Gov. Pritzker last summer rubber-stamped an 816-page bill authorizing massive expansion of the state gambling industry that, among other things, included the legalization of sports betting at retail locations and across digital venues.
The bill’s enforcement into law was a big triumph for the rookie governor who has the challenging task to find funds for his ambitious $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital plan in a state that has been perennially strapped for cash.
First Sports Betting Licenses Granted
The Illinois Gaming Board opened the sports betting license application window in December. The regulator issued the first three temporary operating permits early this month. Under the state’s newly enforced athletic gambling law, all of Illinois’ ten existing casinos are allowed to apply for sports betting licenses.
The three casinos that received temporary permits were Argosy Casino Alton, Grand Victoria Casino Elgin, and Rivers Casino Des Plaines. The properties will be able to conduct both retail and digital wagering activities.
As mentioned above, hopes are that Illinois residents will be able to place first legal bets by mid-March, when the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, or March Madness, is set to kick off. The major basketball event traditionally attracts a lot of attention and betting action.
According to industry insiders, Argosy Casino could be well on track to open Illinois’ first sportsbook, but it is yet to be seen whether this would be the case.
Commenting on the possible start of legal sports betting in the coming few weeks, Illinois Senator Steve Stadelman said this week that “by the time March Madness comes around and the NCAA tournament that’s a heavy time that people like to bet on sports […] I think the state still hopes to have an operation in place by that time to take advantage in the increased interest in betting on sports.”
DraftKings, FanDuel Have to Wait for 18 Months to Get Into the Betting Fold
The legalization of sports betting in Illinois came with a rather controversial provision that blocked companies like DraftKings and FanDuel from applying for online sports betting licenses until 18 months after the start of legal athletic gambling in the state.
There will be three online-only spots betting licenses available after that 18-month period and they will cost $20 million each.
DraftKings and FanDuel have, of course, not been very happy by that turn of events. The CEO of DraftKings, Jason Robins, even took to Twitter last year, saying that “while it is good to see sports betting bills passed, excluding DraftKings and FanDuel is like passing a ride sharing bill that excludes Uber and Lyft.”
The tweet went on that it was “very disappointing that Illinois customers will not have the best options available to them for 18 months.”
Elsewhere around the US, the two daily fantasy sports turned sports betting operators have been among the leaders in the provision of sports betting services.