The anticipation for Circa Sportsbook’s launch in Illinois is reaching a boiling point. And now there appears to be a more targeted time period for when the operator is expected to become a legal Illinois sports betting site.
Circa’s director of operations, Jeff Benson, told PlayIllinois that the sportsbook now hopes to launch in Illinois by late September. Of course, the launch is pending final legislative approval from the Illinois Gaming Board.
Expected Circa launch in Illinois appears behind schedule
The original thought was that Circa Sportsbook would launch in Illinois this August. As days on the calendar continue to roll by, that target time period becomes less likely.
The plan was for Circa to simultaneously launch online and retail sports betting in Illinois. Benson did not indicate that both online and retail would be set to launch in September.
However, Circa is tethered with The Temporary by American Place Casino, a Full House Resorts property in Waukegan that opened its doors on Feb. 17. Theoretically, there is a spot for retail to launch if Circa chooses to follow through with that.
The new late September expected launch period also could mean Circa won’t be the eighth sportsbook to go live in Illinois.
Hard Rock Bet looks to be closer to an official launch. The Illinois Gaming Board approved Hard Rock for a four-year retail and online Illinois sports betting license in conjunction with the Hard Rock Rockford casino. It is now technically licensed to offer sports betting in the state. Yet, the operator still needs to pass regulatory inspections that would approve it for wagering. However, it does look like the Hard Rock sportsbook launch is somewhat imminent.
Circa looks to be in a position to become the ninth sportsbook to launch.
Betting operator Betway was the lone “winning bidder” of a process to determine the suitability of up to three online-only sports betting license slots. However, the company’s road to launching in Illinois appears much longer.
Meanwhile, PENN Entertainment is expected to replace Barstool Sportsbook with the new ESPN Bet sportsbook sometime this fall.
Circa’s Illinois launch would come after the start of the NFL season
If the late September launch date is accurate, Circa wouldn’t launch in Illinois until after the kickoff to the 2023 NFL season. Many are aware that football is the No. 1 most bet on sport in the US. So, potentially missing the first three or four weeks of NFL action could be a significant disadvantage to Circa.
Currently, the seven regulated Illinois sportsbooks are dominated by three players: FanDuel, DraftKings and BetRivers. A PlayIllinois analysis found that those three operators make up more than 75% of the Illinois sports betting market.
Collecting on bets from NFL action is a huge component of what makes those operators successful in Illinois. That being said, if Circa can launch in September, they will still have a large portion of the NFL season. There will also be the start of the NBA and NHL seasons, the World Series and Super Bowl LVIII.
However, Circa Sports founder and CEO Derek Stevens previously told PlayIllinois that he isn’t concerned about the competition in the Prairie State.
“There’s 30 competitors in Colorado, there’s quite a few in Iowa and obviously in Nevada, there’s a lot,” said Stevens. “One sportsbook model may be great for a certain type of customer and another model might be better for a very different kind of customer. So, I think there’s a lot of room to continue to grow the market and Illinois so far has been very, very robust. We’re excited about showing up.”
Benson said part of Circa Sports’ appeal to customers is that they shouldn’t worry about being unable to return if they win big. The operator has no limits, and bettors won’t be cut off. He said they continue to add to their betting portfolio. But, there are no intentions of directly challenging the “big boys” of the sports betting market.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to be in the category of a FanDuel or DraftKings in the sense of how deep our menu is going to be,“ said Benson. “Anything that we put on our board, you’re going to get a fair bet. For us, we don’t think a fair bet is $2.37. We think a fair bet is to win a healthy, healthy amount.”