The Illinois Gaming Board has chosen its starting trio. The state issued its first three sportsbook licenses on Friday.
There are downsides and upsides to this news. Perspective on this development depends on whether you’re on the outside looking in right now.
The race begins for the winners of Illinois’ first three sportsbook licenses
For the Argosy Alton, Grand Victoria (Elgin) and Rivers (Des Plaines) casinos, Friday was a great day. Until the state grants more licenses, they will be the only entities allowed to legally accept bets on sporting events in Illinois.
There is a lot of work for them to do to get ready, however. That starts with making a decision on whether they will partner with a vendor to run their sportsbooks.
Nearly all casinos go that route. It allows them to present a great sports wagering product to patrons without having to build one from scratch.
For vendors, sharing revenues with the casino is a good deal, as well. It gives them access to a lot of potential new customers. Once the casinos make those deals, there is more work ahead.
On the retail side, that includes renovating the physical space. The rest of the preparation includes hiring and training staff, working with the IGB and vendors on compliance and ironing out a marketing campaign.
The state appears optimistic that the casinos can complete such work quickly. The three casinos may get to market in time for the next big sporting event.
March could be mad at these three casinos this year
It’s possible that at least one if not all three of these operators could be up and running in time for the 2020 NCAA basketball tournaments. That may only be true as far as brick-and-mortar wagering goes, however.
It tends to take longer to build out and inspect online sportsbooks. Because those tournaments are just a few weeks away now, it’s very unlikely that the online aspects of these books will be ready in time.
In getting retail books in these locations, however, Illinois has maximized its opportunity for retail traffic. Alton is within the greater St. Louis area while Des Plaines and Elgin could both be considered Chicago suburbs.
Not everyone is probably feeling so overjoyed at Friday’s news, however. There are probably some parties feeling left out right now.
Secrecy and the next 420 days for future sportsbooks
Because Illinois’ regulations sealed the bidding process completely, it’s impossible to know how many applicants were part of the original field. It’s also uncertain why the Argosy, Grand Victoria and Rivers casinos got the nods.
While other interested parties can submit license applications, there’s no guarantee that the state will approve them. That means Illinoisans in other cities like Peoria and Springfield have a drive ahead of them if they want to place legal wagers in their state.
For people who live close to one of these three casinos or who don’t mind the drive, however, they will soon be able to wager freely. Slowly but surely, the legal sports betting landscape in Illinois is coming together.