On July 27, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB), the state’s gambling regulator, officially revealed that it validated Hard Rock Casino in Rockford to manage a sportsbook, granting it a retail and mobile license, and revealed Betway as the sole “winning bidder for one of the Illinois 3 licenses for betting online only.”
Submitting a request to the IGB:
Now Hard Rock, which recently revealed the rebranding of its mobile application, will have to submit a request to the IGB to start betting after being granted the Management Services Provider License necessary for sports betting. The IGB intentionally put Hard Rock Casino Rockford‘s Master Sports Wagering license of four years for January to coincide with the casino’s license approval date necessary to submit a request for a retail license. In this regard, in a statement sent to Sports Handle, Geno Iafrate, President of Hard Rock Casino Rockford, said: “We are excited to add sports betting as the latest amenity to Hard Rock Casino Rockford — The Opening Act. We are very appreciative of the IGB’s hard work and diligence to get us to this point. We still have work to do as we finalize our internal controls and begin hiring and training. We are hopeful to launch sports betting within the next couple of months.”
During its meeting last month, the Illinois regulator approved a retail betting license for Full House Resorts, which operates The Temporary in Waukegan. Additionally, Circa Sport is managing mobile and retail wagering for Full House, and it is expected to debut during the last half of September, early during the NFL regular season, according to a tweet from Jeffrey Benson, Circa’s Director of Operations.
Winning the license competition:
As for the Betway, it was one of two contestants for the Illinois online-only operator license that in addition to approval, requires the winner to pay $20 million for it. As for the competition, it was supplementary, as Betway removed its application throughout the initial consideration process which took place in 2022. This was followed by an additional bidding period, after the only former bidder projected to move forward, Tekkorp, removed itself from the competition last October. What’s more, Betway has offered a total of $22.5 million for the aforementioned license, emphasizing that “$20 million is the minimum license requirement and an additional $2.5 million committed at the Applicant’s discretion.”
All of this has led to the IGB saying that Betway “meets the minimum qualifications for licensure” and still needs to go through “a board’s full vetting process“ before it can officially receive “a Master Sports Wagering license for an online-only operator.” However, initially there were two bids submitted to the IGB during the permitted period of November 1 to March 1, and the IGB later announced on its website on July 27 that “the other applicant was J&J LLC, which was to be a subsidiary of J&J Ventures, and submitted a bid of just more than $23 million for the online-only license.”
In this regard, Marcus Fruchter, the IGB Administrator, did not reveal the identity of J&J LLC throughout the aforementioned meeting, but emphasized that it requested the removal of its application on July 10. Fruchter gave the go-ahead for J&J LLC to remove the application on Monday, July 24th, leading to Betway being disclosed on July 27th as the only bidder moving forward in the licensing competition.
The sports wagering market in Illinois to grow in the future:
Illinois represents one of five states that have accumulated over $1 billion in sports wagering handle in any given month in the post-PASPA era, and among those states mentioned above, it contains the smallest number of online books next to Nevada. In addition, the state was number 2 nationally when it comes to handle from February to May, having not had a new mobile newcomer since BetMGM debuted last March. Furthermore, the market leaders in Illinois are DraftKings and FanDuel, with BetRivers holding the number 3 status, BetMGM, the new Caesars Sportsbook and PointsBet, which is currently being purchased by Fanatics, are all competing for the number 4 spot and recently beat out Barstool Sportsbook.
However, the upcoming arrival of Circa and likely debut of Hard Rock Bet just ahead of the NFL season would provide Illinois bettors with nine mobile betting options starting in September, the same as New York, which holds the number 1 position in the U.S. market. Also, extra betting operators during the football season may help make bigger strides in setting monthly handle records.