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Sports Betting Officially launches in Illinois


Sports Betting launches with first legal wager over in Illinois

In a move that had been expected, Illinois officially became the 15th state to roll out legal sports betting. Rivers Casino in Des Plaines opened the state’s first Sportsbook this past Monday morning, introducing Illinois’ latest gambling foray. It is hoped that betting will provide some much-needed funds for the state. It is estimated the state could generate between $9 and $11 billion in wagers on an annual basis. In addition, Illinois could generate $650 million in gross revenue.

The landmark first bet was placed in BetRivers casino, located not far from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The wager was placed shortly after 10:00am from Chicago Blackhawks television analyst Eddie Olczyk. The Chicago native is also well known for his horse racing handicapping. He put a $100 bet on the Chicago White Sox to win the American League pennant, at 16-1 odds.

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All go at the River Casino

The wager at Rivers signals the end to more than eight months of back and forth by state gambling regulators to lay the ground rules for how it will all work. The news will also come as a relief to local residents, who have been eager to get in on the betting action following close neighbors Indiana who launched in September. Olczyk has said that any potential winnings from the bet will go to Northwestern Hospital and the colon cancer research there.

It is full steam ahead for the industry in America at the moment, with Michigan the next in line to launch, as well as several other states who are poised to pass legislation following the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to do so in 2018. Illinois is expected to introduce Sportsbooks at Argosy Casino Alton, Hollywood Casino Aurora, Hollywood Casino Joliet, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin and Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in East Peoria soon. Collinsville-based Fairmont Park Racetrack has also been approved for a temporary operating permit for a Sportsbook.

Where next?

The majority of the Sportsbooks are expected to be live prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament later this month. They will accept physical wagers at their locations, but online sports betting may not launch until later in 2020. The Gaming Board’s review of the proposed Hard Rock Casino in Rockford is ongoing, but the presence of the first legal sportsbook in Illinois could be the start of a major shift in gambling across the state.

However, the state’s most profitable casino, Rivers, was the first to obtain a sports betting license. The casino strongly believed getting their first was of paramount importance and wanted to lay the foundations before regulators gave the go-ahead. Rivers chairman Neil Bluhm echoed this by saying You always want to be first, but you also want to do it right. There could be a domino effect that this news has on betting in general across the state. Illinois has three racetracks which are also eligible to open Sportsbooks, as well as big stadiums like Wrigley Field and the United Center. It would not be a surprise to see many punters placing wagers before events at these places, and within the next year, this could become the norm.

Illinois currently has 10 casinos and you would expect them all to expand into sports betting in the near future.

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