Let the games begin in Illinois.
With one tweet late Thursday, Circa Sports announced that it was officially entering the mobile sports betting market in Illinois.
The announcement ends a long and arduous process for the operator to finally go live in the Land of Lincoln. Circa’s app and brick and mortar location began accepting bets at noon Friday. The tweet also directed bettors to wager in person at its partner casino, The Temporary by American Place Casino in Waukegan.
“The debut of Circa Sports Illinois is a tremendous moment for our company, and we are thrilled to have worked with this great state and Full House Resorts to bring the expansion to life,” Circa CEO Derek Stevens said in a press release marking the launch.
The road to launch for Circa Sports was winding
Circa was approved for a license by the Illinois Gaming Board in April. Stevens told PlayIllinois the original plan was for Circa to launch a brick and mortar sportsbook when The Temporary opened its doors in March, but that’s allowed under gaming regulations of the state.
“The casino has to open and then there’s a period of time where the casino is open before they have the ability to bring a sportsbook in,” Stevens said in January. “A sportsbook in Illinois must open at a later date than the casino.”
Stevens said the sportsbook he founded in 2019 in Las Vegas will offer a unique selling proposition aimed at appealing to high rollers. Namely, Circa promises a lower percentage hold while also welcoming large bets.
In May, Circa officials said the goal was to launch in August prior to the NFL season. At that time, director of operations Jeff Benson said one of the hoops the company needed to jump through was getting approval from the gaming board for software licensing.
Market that Circa Sports enters
On Friday, Circa enters the market as the eighth player in the market for mobile sports betting in Illinois. The field is led 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.
“There’s 30 competitors in Colorado, there’s quite a few in Iowa and obviously in Nevada, there’s a lot,” Stevens said. “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.”
Hard Rock Bet Illinois could be the ninth operator in the Prairie State’s online betting market. 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 in July. The operator still needs to pass regulatory inspections that would approve it for wagering.
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.
PENN Entertainment is expected to replace Barstool Sportsbook with the new ESPN Bet sportsbook sometime this fall.
Social reaction to Circa’s announcement
Fans and prospective users of Circa’s app took to social media to hail its entry into the market. Here are some of the comments PlayIllinois found on X, formerly known as Twitter.
— Bill Palmer (@BillPalmer23) September 29, 2023
I love holidays https://t.co/6tp2z1uQf4
— Colby Marchio (@C_Marchio2) September 29, 2023
Yuge deal – best book in the US. https://t.co/jYhviWcHDv
— Tony from Hannibal (@tony_hannibal) September 29, 2023
The only bookmaker I trust, @CircaSports
— General Mitchy Moss (@badpeatmoss) September 29, 2023
— Bryan Brisson (@FvckGoodell) September 29, 2023
Congrats @JeffreyBenson12 love to see you guys keep growing it. 🔥💯
— Better call Ticket 💫 (@____Shemar) September 29, 2023