Breaking: Illinois Gaming Board Approves BetMGM For Sports Betting License, Launch Coming Soon

Written By Joe Boozell on January 27, 2022 - Last Updated on March 5, 2022

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) voted to approve BetMGM for a sports betting license on Thursday in a move that was a long time coming. BetMGM applied for a license back in September 2020.

Now, we wait to see when BetMGM will launch in the Land of Lincoln. It will enter via a market access partnership with Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, meaning it is not an applicant for an online-only license.

Online registration returns in Illinois by March 5. With this approval, BetMGM should be ready to go by then, meaning it will be live in time for March Madness betting. BetMGM could technically launch before March 5, but people would need to sign up in East Peoria.

BetMGM will become the seventh online sportsbook in Illinois. Compared to other states with thriving sports betting markets, that is a small number, but it should grow with the return of mobile registration.

Here’s what Illinoisans should know about BetMGM.

BetMGM on same tier as DraftKings, FanDuel

DraftKings and FanDuel are far and away the market leaders in Illinois by monthly handle and revenue.

It remains to be seen how BetMGM in Illinois will perform since it is launching so much later than those two. However, in other states, it is a serious player.

BetMGM recently released data announcing that it was the No. 2 sports betting and online casino operator in markets in which it is live between August-November 2021. It accounted for a 24% market share.

It won’t challenge DraftKings and FanDuel immediately in Illinois, but it could in the future. Expect to see an aggressive advertising and promotional push from BetMGM.

It dubs itself “The King of Sportsbooks,” with the charismatic Jamie Foxx as a lead pitchman. NBA legend Kevin Garnett, who played high school basketball in Chicago, is also a prominent MGM ambassador.

BetMGM also has a track record of seeking out ambassadors with local ties, so don’t be surprised to see a famous former Chicago coach or athlete ink a deal with the company over the next few months.

Why did BetMGM Illinois take so long?

It’s simple: In-person registration.

BetMGM applied for an IL license in September 2020. By April 2021, Gov. JB Pritzker brought back in-person registration in Illinois.

At the time, BetMGM and Unibet were pending sports betting applicants. But had either launched in an in-person registration environment, it probably wouldn’t have gone well from a business perspective.

Now, BetMGM is headlining Illinois’ “second launch” of sorts. The approval means it will almost certainly be ready to launch by March 5.

We know that other sportsbooks will follow in 2022. What we don’t know, however, is just how soon they can get up and running.

Unibet would seem to be next in line, as it is a known pending sports betting applicant. Operators such as Bally BettheScore BetGolden Nugget and WynnBET have all verbally stated their interest in launching sportsbooks in Illinois, and we know there are three mystery applicants for an online-only license. There is a good chance some or all of those operators applied.

This is an unprecedented situation, so we will be learning plenty about the process in real-time.

Either way, Illinoisans are getting at least one high-profile sportsbook in the coming weeks and months. And, at some point, more sportsbook options will come.

Photo by AP Photo/John Locher
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, and Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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