The wait is over.
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) announced Friday it approved Rivers Casino to take its first sports bets on Monday. The announcement comes around 10 months after legislators legalized sports betting, and just in time for March Madness.
“The BetRivers Sportsbook will take March Madness out of the office pool and into an exciting, elevated live sports wagering experience,” Rivers Casino Senior Vice President and General Manager Corey Wise said in a press release. “We are grateful to the Illinois Gaming Board staff for their work approving our sportsbook in time for the college basketball tournament—one of the greatest sports events of the year.”
“BetRivers Sportsbook” refers to the casino’s 4,840-square-foot on-site sportsbook. The betting epicenter has an ultra HD LED video wall that’s 47 feet wide.
Rivers Sportsbook only one open for business on Day 1
On June 2, 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a sports betting bill into law. The move legalized sports wagering and paved the way for Rivers’ sportsbook launch.
Rivers Des Plaines will be the only location in the state that accepts a wager opening day. The casino will have a betting monopoly until the IGB approves the next casino(s) for a launch.
At the time of publishing, there was no indication another sportsbook would open in the next few days. However, there’s a good chance at least one more property will open a sportsbook before March Madness.
Five other casinos have temporary licenses they can use to open a sportsbook.
Quirks in Illinois’ betting laws
Sports betting laws vary from state to state. The flashpoints tend to be: tax rate, online betting registration, and licensing fees.
Casinos will pay a 15% tax rate on the revenue they earn from sports betting. The rate is considerably higher than nearly every other state with sports betting.
For example, Indiana’s rate is 9.5%, Iowa has a 6.75% rate, and a recent proposed sports bill in Missouri calls for a 6.75% tax rate.
The high tax rate is seen as a serious drawback of Illinois regulations.
Online betting registration
The final quirk in The Prairie State’s sports betting regulations is its registration requirement for online and mobile betting.
Here are the basics:
- Casinos with retail sportsbooks can launch online/mobile platforms anytime after they open retail
- Bettors will have to register for those online/mobile platforms in-person at the casino
- The in-person provision lasts 18 months after the first retail sportsbook opens
After 18 months, bettors can register online. Also, standalone online operators (e.g. a non-casino operator) can launch after 18 months.
Casinos will pay a maximum of $10 million for the necessary licenses to operate retail, online and mobile sportsbooks.
Indiana and Iowa, on the other hand, charge a maximum of $100,000 for licenses.
These high fees are another strike against the state’s regulations.
What this means for Indiana
There are two main Indiana-side impacts from the Illinois launch this week.
First, the launch will renew observations and discussions about the Illinois law’s shortcomings. Indiana’s regulations look good compared to its neighbor.
Indiana residents can bet at retail locations and through mobile apps. There is no in-person registration rule either.
Second, there will be bettors who won’t make the trip to border casinos in Hammond, East Chicago, and Gary.
Exactly how many Illinois-based bettors will make the switch from Indiana properties to BetRivers is unknown. Especially so long as the in-person requirement is in play.