Circa Sportsbook Approved In Illinois, Here’s When We Expect It To Launch

Written By Dave Briggs on April 27, 2023
Circa Sportsbook

Circa Sportsbook is one step closer to becoming the eighth legal Illinois online sportsbook. Today, the Illinois Gaming Board approved Circa’s license.

Jeff Benson, Circa’s director of operations, told PlayIllinois via email:

“We will be going live [both] brick and mortar and online later this year. Tentative August launch.”

Circa is tethered with The Temporary by American Place Casino, a Full House Resorts property in Waukegan that opened its doors on Feb. 17.

At the IGB’s regular board meeting, Circa moved from “applicant” to “licensed.” However, it will still be many months before Circa is allowed to open.

Circa CEO Derek Stevens told PlayIllinois in January that Circa was ready to launch when The Temporary opened its doors. Except, that’s not allowed by the IGB.

“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. “A sportsbook in Illinois must open at a later date than the casino.”

How Circa plans to compete with established Illinois sportsbooks

Circa, which was founded four years ago, currently operates sportsbooks in Nevada, Colorado and Iowa.

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.

Stevens said he’s not concerned about the number of competitors.

“There’s 30 competitors in Colorado, there’s quite a few in Iowa and obviously in Nevada, there’s a lot,” Stevens said.

“I really think sports betting, in general, is still in its infancy. Sportsbooks, they’re all different. 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.”

Circa Sports CEO Derek Stevens
Circa Sports CEO Derek Stevens

When Circa does launch in Illinois, 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.

“The quantity of players is maybe a little bit different for us, but I think a low-hold model that takes larger wagers is a model that suits some customers,” Stevens said.

“I think everybody’s going to want to shop lines, and I think you’re going to see that with Circa Sports, people are going to understand the low-hold model when they see some of our futures. That’s going to be a key component of what we’re focused on for Illinois.”

Circa sees opportunity in Illinois sports betting sector

Sports betting in Illinois is big business.

In February, Illinois officially surpassed $20 billion in lifetime sports betting handle. The Land of Lincoln ranks third in lifetime sports betting handle in the US behind only New Jersey and Nevada.

Illinois produced handle of $875.4 million in Februaryranking it second in the United States behind only New York ($1.47 billion) and ahead of New Jersey ($847.4 million), Nevada ($659.4 million) and Ohio ($639.8 million) that month.

Prior to February, Illinois was riding a four-month streak with over $1 billion in handle each month. That streak made the Land of Lincoln just the fourth state to post four consecutive months of billion-dollar handle. The others are New York, New Jersey and Nevada.

“We definitely think that Illinois is a great sports market,” Stevens said. “You know the passion they have for so many of the teams based in Illinois. We think that based upon the regulatory environment, the population base, and the Midwest component of sports fans; we think it really comes together.”

Stevens said launching in Illinois was simply a case where “all the stars lined up for us.”

“We thought the regulatory environment in Illinois matched up with our model. We were able to work a deal out with Full House Resorts and we were excited to have a new build in in Northern Illinois. So that kind of matched up a bit with what we wanted to do,” he said.

Circa has big plans for permanent sportsbook in Waukegan

Stevens said the Circa sportsbook will be at The Temporary casino for between two and three years while the permanent casino is being built. He said Circa is excited to have some design input on the retail sportsbook.

After all, Circa does operate several lavish sportsbooks, the best known being the Stadium Swim in Vegas that combines six huge swimming pools with a 40-foot tall high definition screen for watching and betting on sports.

Though, an outdoor, swim-up sportsbook won’t be coming to Illinois for obvious reasons.

Photo by courtesy Circa Sportsbook
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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in North America with an emphasis on the casino, sports betting, horse racing and poker sectors. He is currently reporting on the gaming industries in Illinois and Canada.

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