Hollywood Casinos Welcome Two More Sportsbooks To Illinois Stage

Written By Derek Helling on August 20, 2020 - Last Updated on September 16, 2020

On Thursday, the number of retail sportsbooks open for business in Illinois went from four to six.

Two Hollywood Casino sportsbooks began taking wagers at kiosks and betting windows.

So far, there isn’t any plan for online betting at the Aurora and Joliet casinos. However, that may change in the future due to a deal Penn National Gaming made earlier this year.

The background for the online sports betting stage changed on Friday evening when Gov. JB Pritzker reversed the in-person registration requirement.

Details on the new Hollywood Casino sportsbooks

Patrons at either property can now make bets while on-site. Both properties opened their sportsbooks at 11 a.m. CST Aug. 20. Both spaces contain what bettors expect from a brick-and-mortar sportsbook.

In Aurora, the sportsbook is adjacent to the gaming floor. The property currently offers three kiosks and four betting windows. In addition, bettors can enjoy watching live sports in a limited seating area.

The Joliet version currently does not offer windows but has five kiosks. The space, adjacent to the 99 Hops House bar, does boast 40 viewing screens for fans.

The kiosks (and windows in Aurora) are available any time the casinos are open. In Aurora, those hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Joliet’s hours are 8 a.m. to 4 a.m., seven days a week. Both facilities have safety restrictions for guests currently in place, such as the mandatory wearing of face masks and limited amenities.

Penn National operates both properties, which both sit about 45 minutes outside of Chicago. For that reason, some changes may be on the way, including integrating a partner for online wagering.

How Penn may use its master license in the future

Penn has made deals with several online sportsbook operators in other states, such as DraftKings in Indiana, to manage online wagering. For its properties in Illinois, however, it may go a different direction.

In January, Penn National acquired a piece of the controversial Barstool Sports brand. The intent has been to eventually build out a sports betting product with that brand at the forefront. There isn’t an app for Barstool Sports as of yet.

The retail sportsbooks in Aurora and Joliet may eventually be part of that effort. Right now, however, Penn hasn’t disclosed any plans to do so, although it may be an internal consideration.

Still, a retail sportsbook is a valuable commodity in IL. State law only gives the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) the authority to issue three online-only licenses. The IGB can only do that 540 days after BetRivers Sportsbook took the first in-person bet on March 9.

Additionally, those standalone licenses cost $10 million to acquire. For all those reasons, partnering with a facility in the Prairie State is a cheaper, quicker path into IL for online sportsbook operators.

The advantage for Penn of contracting with an online sportsbook partner that it owns a stake in should be obvious. Essentially, what’s good for the goose would be good for the gander.

For now, Penn is focused on getting the retail sportsbooks operating smoothly at its Hollywood properties in IL. The branding of those books could see a wholesale change in the near future, however.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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