Which Sportsbooks Have Eyes On The No. 2 Sports Betting Bachelor?

Posted By Joe Boozell on June 18, 2021

Illinois became the No. 2 sports betting market in the US in April, recording $537.2 million in handle. The Land of Lincoln was behind No. 1 New Jersey in the total amount of money wagered.

So, with that news, sportsbooks will be eager to get into the Illinois market. There are six online sportsbooks in Illinois right now, a small number compared to other legal sports betting states.

With that said, Illinois is complicated. The in-person registration requirement will be in place until 2022, and current operators got a massive head start thanks to seven-plus months of online registration.

At any rate, the pie is so big that it makes sense for outside sportsbook operators to pursue Illinois.

The list of potential new Illinois sportsbooks is growing. Here’s everything we know about which books could launch next in the Prairie State.

BetMGM, Unibet are pending Illinois applicants

According to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) website, BetMGM and Unibet are the lone pending applicants for a mobile license.

We’ve known of their interest dating back to the fall.

However, the return to in-person registration threw a wrench into both of their plans.

Unibet has a market access deal with Argosy Casino Alton. But once Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker ended online sign-ups, Unibet confirmed with PlayIllinois that it would have to “reevaluate” its launch plans in the state. A few months later, we haven’t heard any updates about Unibet.

BetMGM, meanwhile, is even more of a mystery. There was speculation that it would strike a market access deal with Par-A-Dice Casino, as both entities have Boyd Gaming ties.

But with in-person registration here for the next several months, BetMGM may be inclined to bid for a mobile-only license that will become available in the winter. BetMGM has deep pockets, and would perhaps be willing to pony up the $20 million fee for an online-only license.

Once the IGB issues one of those licenses, it triggers remote registration for all.

More sportsbooks waiting in the wings

We know that Bally Bet, theScore Bet and Golden Nugget are interested in joining the Illinois sports betting market.

Here’s what we know about each.

Bally Bet

The most recent IGB meeting was an eventful one for Bally’s. The national gaming operator is now the official owner of Jumer’s Casino & Hotel.

The board also approved a retail sports betting license for the casino, so Bally Bet will be able to offer in-person sports betting soon. Of course, it will also want to get in on the online action.

Bally Bet figures to be more of a force in other markets, as it made a big play to purchase several Fox Sports regional networks. Though because most Chicago local games air on NBC Sports Chicago or Marquee Sports, Illinoisans likely won’t have as much exposure to the brand.

Bally Bet is currently only live in Colorado, but figures to launch in more states soon.

TheScore Bet 

TheScore Bet has a market access deal with the Harrah’s Joliet casino. The IGB also approved a retail sports betting license for the Joliet casino last week, so theScore should be able to operate a retail sportsbook there in the near future.

As for online, theScore Bet still hasn’t formally applied for a license. Seeing as it has a fairly new market access deal with Harrah’s, it is likely not a candidate to pursue a mobile-only license.

Golden Nugget 

Golden Nugget has the most curious circumstances of any sportsbook we’ve mentioned thus far.

At a recent earnings call, the company president said that Golden Nugget plans to launch online sports betting in Illinois in the fourth quarter of 2021. Though at the moment, that doesn’t seem possible.

Golden Nugget has a market access deal with the Danville casino, but there’s just one problem: A casino in Danville doesn’t exist yet. It should eventually, but we’re likely years away.

In the meantime, that could signal Golden Nugget’s interest in pursuing a mobile-only license. Applications should open in December.

It’s either that or Golden Nugget has a different market access deal in the pipeline that we’re unaware of yet.

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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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