Circa Sports and Full House Resorts announced an agreement Monday in which the Las Vegas-based sportsbook will enter Illinois for sports betting via the New American Place casino that will be built in Waukegan near the Wisconsin border.
Circa is currently active in Nevada, Colorado, and Iowa since launching operations in the Silver State in 2019. Circa launched mobile wagering in the Hawkeye State in October and has generated $6.3 million in handle and nearly $180,000 in revenue through its first seven months of accepting wagers.
“We are thrilled to introduce our industry-leading sports betting and hospitality experience to Illinois,” said Circa Sports founder and CEO Derek Stevens in a joint statement. “We have developed incredible relationships with Midwest bettors at our Las Vegas casinos, so to bring our product to the great state of Illinois is a major milestone for us.”
In the press release, Full House announced Circa Sports will operate its retail sportsbook in a temporary venue to be opened later this year and will eventually operate mobile wagering. At this time, the Illinois Gaming Board website does not list Full House Resorts as an applicant for a Master Sports Wagering owners license or Circa Sports as an applicant for a Management Services Provider license, which is required to operate mobile wagering.
Full House’s Waukegan location is one of six places granted a casino license in the 2019 gaming expansion bill signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker that legalized sports wagering in Illinois. Full House’s temporary casino — aptly named The Temporary by American Place — is expected to open in the fall and be in operation for 12 to 24 months while the permanent venue is constructed in the Fountain Square part of the city.
“We promised Illinois a premium gaming and entertainment facility, and that includes a first-class sportsbook experience,” said Alex Stolyar, chief development officer of Full House Resorts. “We witnessed how Derek and his team have revolutionized the sports betting and viewing experience at Circa, and knew that they would be the right partner for American Place.”
Illinois has generated more than $11 billion in sports betting handle since accepting its first bets in March 2020, and it just reported a monthly record handle of $971 million this March. There are currently seven brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in casinos in Illinois, two horse tracks accepting bets, and two off-track locations connected to Hawthorne Race Course taking wagers.
Waukegan is about 45 miles north of Chicago, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot tabbed Bally’s as the preferred finalist for the city’s downtown casino license Thursday, and 20 miles from the Wisconsin state line. Sports wagering is available in Wisconsin on a limited basis through tribal gaming, and the Potawatomi tribe that operates a casino in Milwaukee was approved to offer retail betting in February.
Circa taking first retail steps outside Las Vegas
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While mobile wagering accounts for nearly 96% of sports wagering in Illinois, there is a healthy brick-and-mortar component, with retail wagering reaching a record $43.7 million in March. Waukegan, which is located in Lake County, ranks 10th in the state in population with nearly 90,000 people, but Lake County ranks fourth with more than 685,000 residents.
“American Place has been an excellent partner for the launch of our temporary sportsbook,” Stevens added. “This is our first time introducing a physical book to a new state, and we are thrilled to work with Full House to bring it to life.”
In its quarterly report Monday, Full House noted it received approval from the city of Waukegan last week for construction to begin on the temporary facility. Chairman Daniel Lee said the company has “begun hiring our senior management team for The Temporary, and continue to progress toward an expected opening later this year. It took longer than expected to begin construction, moving our projected opening date from the summer into the fall.”
The temporary casino is expected to have 1,000 slots, 50 table games and the Circa Sportsbook. The permanent casino, which has been projected to cost at least $400 million, will have more than 1,600 slots and 100 table games along with the sportsbook and a 1,500-seat indoor venue.