When in-person sports betting registration went away for good on March 5, it signaled a new Illinois sports betting industry era. Finally, the market could reach its full potential.
Residents even got a new sportsbook then in BetMGM Illinois. And Caesars Sportsbook, which was technically already in the Land of Lincoln, released a new and improved product that should make it more of a player in IL.
But still, Illinois only has seven online sportsbooks. Compared to other top markets, that is not very many. Colorado, for example, has 26.
Three more should be coming to Illinois — and if you read the Sports Wagering Act, you might be surprised that they aren’t here now.
In December, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) announced that three anonymous operators had applied for online-only licenses. And based on the bill, it seemed possible we would at least learn their identities by early March.
From Section 25-45 of the Sports Wagering Act:
“Applications for the initial competitive selection occurring after the effective date of this Act shall be received by the Board within 540 days after the first license is issued under this Act to qualify. The Board shall announce the winning bidders for the initial competitive selection within 630 days after the first license is issued under this Act, and this time frame may be extended at the discretion of the Board.”
The 540-day mark was early December. The 630-day mark was early March, but we have heard little about where the process stands.
It appears that “this time frame may be extended at the discretion of the board” is doing a lot of work here.
IGB quiet on the issue
An IGB spokesperson told PlayIllinois when asked about the process:
“The announcement of the online only sports wagering operator license applicants will be made public after the relevant statutory requirements have been met. Any announcement will be posted to the IGB’s website.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered this kind of scenario in Illinois. The IGB repeatedly delayed deadlines for new casino license applicants, leading key people in the south suburban process to write angry op-eds.
The IGB was supposed to provide casino applicants an answer within a year of receiving its materials, but there is similar language in the bill about the board’s discretion. The end result was a decision more than two years after filing the original application.
If we’re applying the same standard here, there’s no telling when the board might make a decision on the pending sports betting applicants. The good news is that evaluating a sports betting applicant is a far simpler process than evaluating a casino applicant, but it’s clear that the 630-day “deadline” didn’t hold much weight.
Possible candidates for Illinois sports betting licenses
We don’t know which three companies applied for online-only sports betting licenses, but we can do our best to speculate.
Here are some candidates:
- Bally Bet
- Fox Bet
- Golden Nugget
Originally, the issuance of these licenses was supposed to trigger permanent online registration in Illinois. Thanks to a legislative fix in HB 3136 that is no longer the case.
Still, more sportsbooks mean more lines and promos for consumers and more tax dollars for the state. So it would be nice to get them sooner rather than later.