Illinois will likely have a new online sportsbook: Caliente Interactive, known as “Caliplay.” However, Illinois sports bettors might be disappointed that there won’t be more coming in the near future.
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) announced that Caliente has been selected as the lone winner for an online-only license at a Thursday meeting. Caliente, a Mexico-based operator, is not currently live in the US. Illinois would be its first state.
This does not equal final licensure, but it is a crucial step. It could mean that Caliente will be live in IL within the next few months.
There were three online-only licenses available. However, one mystery applicant withdrew its bid during the process, while the IGB rejected Fubo Sportsbook’s application. IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter said the other two licenses are still open, and he will share more details later on.
With the addition of Caliente, there should soon be eight online sportsbooks in IL. Despite flirting with the No. 2 sports betting handle in the US on a monthly basis, Illinois hasn’t had very many options compared to other states.
That number is inching upward but is still relatively small. Here is what we know about Caliente, which is pretty much unknown in the US at the moment.
Caliente the sports betting leader in Mexico
Caliente Interactive describes itself as “a leading operator of Online Gaming and Sports Betting in Mexico.”
It owns off-track betting and bookmaking outlets in Mexico, Austria, Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela and the Caribbean.
Caliente is part of Grupo Caliente, which was founded in 1916 in Tiajuana. Here is how Caliente describes itself on Linkedin:
Caliente Interactive (“Caliplay”) is a leader in the regulated Mexican online casino and sports betting market. With a focus on marketing and user experience, Caliplay operates several websites that offer a range of online gaming entertainment services, including sports betting, casino games, slots, live games and mobile betting. The Caliente brand associated with Caliplay has a rich history that dates back to 1916, and has consistently expanded to several states of Mexico and in more than a dozen countries in Central and South America. Caliplay is committed to providing industry-leading responsible gaming practices.
How we got here
Originally, the issuance of an online-only license was supposed to trigger the removal of in-person sports betting registration.
However, the law did not play out as planned. When sports betting launched in Illinois in March 2020, there were supposed to be 18 months of in-person registration. Then, the IGB would hand out the online-only licenses, and there would be online sign-ups for all.
But of course, COVID-19 happened. That caused Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to suspend the in-person registration requirement for about seven months. The likes of DraftKings, FanDuel, etc. were also able to partner with casinos to offer sports betting. Once online registration was available, they were able to become the market leaders in the Land of Lincoln.
Fast-forward to this past fall, and the Illinois legislature voted to give a firm end date for in-person registration: March 5.
So while this news doesn’t carry the implications it otherwise would have, a new sportsbook in a huge market is still significant. It will be fascinating to see how Caliente competes in a robust Illinois market.