DraftKings became just the second live mobile/online sports betting app in Illinois today when it launched its DraftKings at Casino Queen digital app and took the first bet at its retail location in East St. Louis, according to a company press release.
DraftKings has been advertising in Illinois for a few weeks in anticipation of the launch, but it had been waiting for Casino Queen to be awarded “provisional” wagering status by the Illinois Gaming Board.
DraftKings joins BetRivers, which launched on June 18, as the only live digital platforms in the state. It’s likely that PointsBet, which has partnered with the Hawthorne Race Course, will go live by the end of the month.
DraftKings misses remote-registration window
“Illinois is home to some of the most passionate sports fans and most iconic sports teams in the entire country,” said Jason Robins, DraftKings co-founder and CEO, in a press release. “DraftKings’ dedication to innovation and providing customers with a premier sports betting experience has made our app the top-rated option and we can’t wait for fans in Illinois to discover why.”
It’s official! Today, @DraftKings at Casino Queen launches sports betting in Illinois and will offer customers retail, online and mobile experiences. Read more: https://t.co/6lMCzv9DQ8 pic.twitter.com/LKpijTX1gl
— DraftKings News (@DraftKingsNews) August 5, 2020
While there is plenty to celebrate for DraftKings, which entered into an agreement to rebrand the Casino Queen and avoid a potential 18-month waiting period to go live, the company did miss a limited, two-month remote registration window.
The new law requires that patrons register for sports betting in person at casinos, racetracks, OTBs, or professional sports venues. In this case, that means at the East St. Louis location, which is a more than four-hour drive from Chicago, the biggest population center in the state.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker lifted the in-person registration requirement earlier this year via executive order, allowing potential bettors to register remotely on their mobile devices, but he did not renew Executive Order No. 41 last month, so in-person registration is back in force.
For DraftKings, the launch is a victory in a state that did everything it could to put DraftKings and rival FanDuel at a disadvantage. Rush Street Interactive, based in Illinois, asked lawmakers to penalize the daily fantasy giants as legislation was being crafted. RSI initially asked for a three-year waiting period before stand-alone mobile platforms could go live, but lawmakers settled on 18 months.
That provision stemmed from RSI’s contention that DraftKings and FanDuel were operating daily fantasy platforms illegally in the state and should not be allowed immediately to leverage their databases for sports betting. A mobile-only license will cost $20 million.
According to a 2015 Illinois attorney general’s opinion, the companies were both operating illegally in Illinois before — and continued to do so after.
DraftKings found a loophole
But instead of waiting out the so-called “penalty box,” DraftKings made a deal with Casino Queen and filed with the Illinois Secretary of State for a name change in order to brand its app and physical sportsbook with “DraftKings” in the first position.
DraftKings at Casino Queen Sportsbook is now OPEN!
— DraftKings at Casino Queen (@DKatCQ) August 5, 2020
The brick-and-mortar sportsbook is just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, and DraftKings will have a mobile monopoly as Missouri hasn’t legalized sports betting. Illinois competitor the Argosy at Alton (Penn National) is also in suburban St. Louis, but it is not yet live with a mobile platform. Without remote registration, however, the advantage of getting to market ahead of FanDuel is limited.
“We are excited to bring sports betting to Illinois and the St. Louis community,” Terry Downey, president of DraftKings at Casino Queen, said via press release. “The marriage of two iconic brands promises to create an unforgettable experience that can only be found at DraftKings at Casino Queen.”
It’s possible that FanDuel, which in March said it was in talks with Fairmount Race Track, will go down the same road. The company has not filed for a name change, however, and Fairmount has not yet been licensed by the IGB.
PointsBet is the next company positioned to go live in Illinois, having been awarded its Temporary Operating Permit in mid-July while the IGB licensed Hawthorne at its regular meeting about a week later. PointsBet must file a “request to commence wagering” with the IGB, and once that is approved, it will be cleared to go live.