Seven casinos received master licenses Thursday to run Illinois sports betting operations, but mobile wagering remains on hold.
The Illinois Gaming Board approved the master licenses just days after Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order that could expedite mobile IL sports betting. The order suspended the in-person registration requirement put in place last year by the state legislature during the coronavirus pandemic.
Signing up for an account, however, will not get sports bettors far in Illinois. No casinos in the state operate mobile platforms, though that could change quickly after Pritzker’s move.
Who received Illinois sports betting licenses?
The seven casinos approved for four-year master licenses to run sports betting in Illinois are:
- Argosy Casino Alton
- Grand Victoria Casino
- Hollywood Casino Aurora
- Hollywood Casino Joliet
- Rivers Casino-Des Plaines
- Casino Queen, Inc.
- Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino
Argosy and Rivers previously launched retail sports betting operations prior to the pandemic-related casino shutdown. None of the casinos have applied to operate mobile platforms yet.
The IGB will need to vet each applicant before operators can take advantage of Pritzker’s reprieve.
How long will bettors go mobile?
The order remains in effect “during the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation or the Illinois Gaming Board issues a competitively bid master sports wagering license.”
The second part of that instruction caused confusion last week when the original press release did not specify “competitively bid.” That phrase refers specifically to the three internet-only licenses available at a $20 million cost.
Those prohibitively priced licenses substituted for the original 18-month “penalty box” provision of the law. Some legislators sought to punish DraftKings and FanDuel for operating daily fantasy sports in Illinois in defiance of the state’s attorney general.
Mobile clock is now ticking
Today’s approvals start a 630-day clock for regulators to select the competitively bid licensees. That gives the IGB until spring 2022 to choose who gets untethered mobile Illinois sports betting access.
The in-person registration requirement ends either when regulators grant one of those three licenses, or at the expiration of the waiting period. No one knows how long Pritzker’s proclamation will stand, effectively slicing weeks or even months off the original restriction.
“Governor Pritzker’s executive order allows Illinois sports fans to temporarily place wagers from the safety of their own home, protecting a revenue source that is critical as the state begins to recover from the damaging financial impact of COVID-19,” said Marcus Fruchter, Administrator of the Illinois Gaming Board.
Even if the order lifts, whatever time operators can use to gather customers for eventual mobile launches could prove highly valuable. Local and regional operators will welcome any edge they can grab while the two major players are locked out.