Heating Up: PointsBet Obtains Sports Betting Permit, Ramping Up Race For Illinois Dominance

Written By Derek Helling on July 17, 2020 - Last Updated on September 11, 2020

The race to become the dominant sports betting operator in Illinois is on, with millions of dollars in handle as the prize.

PointsBet Sportsbook now has a horse in that race.

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) has issued PointsBet a permit to offer online and retail wagering. The operator is in an excellent position to gain a significant chunk of the state’s handle.

Path forward in Illinois for PointsBet Sportsbook

Instead of waiting to try to get one of Illinois’ standalone, online-only licenses, PointsBet has taken the same path as DraftKings and William Hill into the Prairie State.

PointsBet has an operator agreement with Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, which is a southwest Chicago suburb. When the sportsbook goes live, PointsBet will have a presence in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and New Jersey.

The main question is whether PointsBet will operate in Illinois much like it does in Indiana and New Jersey, or more like its framework in Iowa. PointsBet offers a mobile sports betting app in IN and NJ.

However, PointsBet Iowa customers can access the sportsbook via its retail space or online. That may be the path forward in IL as well.

There is one big similarity between the two states.

Like IA, IL also requires in-person registration for online wagering. However, Gov. JB Pritzker has temporarily suspended the requirement amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Pritzker could rescind that order at any time.

While Iowa’s mandate expires on New Year’s Day, the measure remains in place in IL until the first online-only sportsbook starts taking bets. Illinois law says the IGB can’t issue that type of license until 540 days have passed from April 9 of this year, when Rivers Casino took the first land-based wager.

PointsBet may wait to roll out mobile apps in IL until the in-person requirement expires. There’s no indicator of when the sportsbook may start accepting any wagers in the Land of Lincoln.

Launch date for IL books still uncertain

PointsBet is tight-lipped about when it expects to start accepting wagers in Illinois. While the proximity of the Hawthorne to Chicago makes it an attractive location, there are still mitigating factors.

One is the uncertain status of US major sporting events. More college conferences are canceling or postponing sports, and the status of other leagues’ schedules is precarious.

For example, Major League Soccer has already had to postpone matches and disqualify teams from its ongoing tournament. PointsBet may want to withhold a major rollout in IL until circumstances are less volatile.

Originally, PointsBet targeted this month as its go-live window. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic, however.

Still, holding out may prove costly as well. If things go well for sports leagues, the end of this month and heading into August could be a tremendous opportunity to launch, especially near Chicago.

The NBA is reportedly considering a second “bubble” for its eight franchisees who won’t be part of its resumption in Chicago. That would be almost custom-made for going live in IL for PointsBet.

Additionally, the pressure is on to keep BetRivers — the only online sportsbook operating in IL right now — from gaining too much of a market share lead. That pressure will intensify if DraftKings or William Hill enter Illinois soon.

Though questions remain about how and when PointsBet will go live in the state, there’s no question about the value of the opportunity, however, with the Chicago sports market up for grabs.

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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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