The sportsbook dominos are starting to fall in Illinois.
Argosy Casino Alton is set to begin taking sports wagers on Monday, March 16 – pending regulatory approval.
“Selection Sunday [is a few days away] and on Monday we’ll open at noon,” Argosy Casino Director of Media Relations Michael Barker told KPLR 11. “We’ll have a ribbon cutting with Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith placing the first bet. I don’t know what that [bet] will be but it won’t be on baseball. But Ozzie will be there and we’ll get it kicked off. We’re excited.”
Argosy is set to become just the second sportsbook to take live legal bets in the state of Illinois.
Proximity to St. Louis
Downtown St. Louis is just 35 minutes away from Argosy so the new retail sportsbook will surely be taking plenty of wagers from Missouri residents.
“For us it’s really driving people across the river and back to Argosy,” Barker said. “Argosy was the first casino in the area. It’s the one that really started the riverboat casino thing nearly 30 years ago. Now we’re the first one in the area to bring back sports betting. So it’s going to be a big deal. It’s going to be a great experience. You’ll be able to bet the games and now you’ll be able to bet during the games. So if you want to bet the second quarter because you see a trend going on with the [St. Louis] BattleHawks game you’ll be able to do that.”
Argosy Casino ready to roll
Argosy Casino has been prepping its grounds for months in anticipation of legalized sports betting.
According to Barker, is has relocated around 65 slot machines and has replaced them with sports betting kiosks. Argosy has also re-designed its popular sports bar.
“In the entrance when you’ve come in we’ve always had Hops House,” Barker told KPLR 11. “It’s a great sports bar that has great energy … We’ve added about 38 TVs. All of them are between 65-inch and 86-inch TVs. So everywhere you look there’s action. And now you’ll be able to put bets on it as well.
“You will have tellers if you want to make a bet in person. But we also have 14 different kiosks so if you want to go and do the self-serve thing you can do that as well.
Timing is everything
Getting things up and running in time for March Madness has long been the goal for Midwest casinos that have been given the green light to start taking legal sports wagers.
The state of Michigan will take its first legal bet later this week, and Illinois began Monday when BetRivers Des Plaines took the first legal sports wager in the Prairie State.
“Those first two days of March Madness are fun even when you don’t have money on them,” Baker said. “Now just imagine you’ve got those first 32 games in the first two days and it’s going to be crazy.”