Will BetMGM Come To Illinois? FanDuel-Fairmount Deal Could Be Invite In Disguise

Posted on November 19, 2020 - Last Updated on March 3, 2021

Fairmount Park rebranding to FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing was big news in and of itself.

But an aspect of the deal that didn’t seem particularly interesting at first glance could make a notable impact on the Illinois sports betting landscape.

FanDuel announced that it would transfer its sports betting license from Par-A-Dice Casino to the horse track. It will continue to operate the Par-A-Dice retail sportsbook, a spokesperson told PlayIllinois, but Illinois only allows one mobile skin per entity.

So, if FanDuel Sportsbook is switching its mobile license over to the horse track, that means the mobile license affiliated with Par-A-Dice would be up for grabs.

Will a new operator seize the opportunity?

BetMGM seems like a logical fit

BetMGM applied for an Illinois sports betting license on Sept. 4. The application is still pending.

What’s curious about that is BetMGM’s lack of an obvious pathway into the market. In order to avoid the 18-month “penalty box,” operators must partner with a land-based casino, racetrack or sports venue.

Looking around the state, and there aren’t a lot of options left unless other sports franchises follow the Chicago Cubs’ lead by opening an in-stadium sportsbook.

As for Illinois casinos, four of the 10 have major sports betting partners:

One of the Hollywood casinos is likely to go with Barstool once it’s live.

With Twin River’s transformation into Bally’s, Jumer’s Casino & Hotel is likely to have some sort of Bally’s branding once it’s ready to offer sports betting.

That leaves a Hollywood Casino, Harrah’s Joliet, Harrah’s Metropolis and, oh yeah, Par-A-Dice. At this point, neither Harrah’s casino has shown interest in sports betting. Penn National Gaming owns both Hollywood casinos.

However, Boyd Gaming owns Par-A-Dice. And that’s good news for the BetMGM sports app in Illinois.

BetMGM has a partnership with Boyd

The two entities struck a deal in 2018. From that press release:

Under this partnership, MGM Resorts and Boyd Gaming will both have the opportunity to offer online and mobile gaming platforms – including sports betting, casino gaming and poker – in jurisdictions where either Boyd Gaming or MGM Resorts operate physical casino-resorts and online licenses are available. Under this market access agreement, each company will have a path to expand their online and mobile gaming presence across 15 states.

While it’s not certain that BetMGM will claim the Par-A-Dice license, all signs point to that being the case.

BetMGM is probably the most well-known operator not currently in Illinois. Based on its pending license application, we know it has an interest. FanDuel’s move opens up an ideal door into the state.

A key question: When will FanDuel officially transfer its license? Since that will require approval from the Illinois Gaming Board, it’s unclear.

2021 should be flush with new Illinois operators

Illinois recorded $305.2 million in September handle, a number that should rise as the market matures and more new operators enter the mix.

The Prairie State should be a priority for any significant sports betting operators in the US.

As of now, we know Unibet and Barstool plan to launch in the Land of Lincoln in 2021. Jumer’s (likely Bally’s) would also like to offer sports betting in 2021, and we laid out the case for BetMGM above.

The unexpected mobile registration period has given fast actors an advantage in Illinois. But because more growth is expected, it’s still an enticing market for fresh operators.

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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. 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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