Circa Sports was unanimously approved for a Management Services Provider license by the Illinois Gaming Board on Thursday, putting it one large step closer to launching mobile sports wagering in the Land of Lincoln.
“We are extremely excited to be one step closer to bringing sports betting the way it should be to all Illinoians in the near future,” said Jeffrey Benson, Circa Sports Director of Operations, via direct message on Twitter.
Circa submitted its application to the IGB last May, and Illinois will be its fourth state for business, along with Colorado, Iowa, and its headquarters state of Nevada. The next step for Circa is to make a formal request to the IGB to commence wagering. After authorization, it would then become the eighth mobile sportsbook in the state.
It has been slightly more than a year since the IGB last expanded offerings for mobile wagering, with BetMGM launching operations in March 2022 after being approved in late January. BetMGM waited until March to commence wagering because the clock expired on the in-person registration provision that was included in the state law that legalized sports wagering in June 2019.
Barstool Sportsbook opened for business in March 2021, while the first five operators — BetRivers, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, and Caesars (neé William Hill) — all commenced operations between June 2020 and September 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Illinois is one of five states to surpass $1 billion in monthly handle, along with New Jersey, Nevada, New York, and Ohio. Of the quintet, Illinois has the fewest mobile wagering options available.
Can the Circa model thrive in Illinois?
— Derek Wagner (@djwagss) April 27, 2023
While Circa is headquartered in Las Vegas, Illinois represents its biggest point of entry in the U.S. mobile sports wagering scene. State handle and revenue figures are not available by operator in Nevada and Colorado, but Circa has carved out a relatively consistent niche in Iowa, where it is one of 18 mobile sportsbooks.
Since launching in the Hawkeye State in October 2021, Circa has generated $22.3 million handle and a hold of just over 3% to claim $670,000 in adjusted gross revenue. But the low hold — less than half the industry standard of 7% — is part of Circa’s business model, as the book is willing to accept bets from all comers. In the first three months of 2023, Circa’s hold in Iowa has ticked higher to 5%, and its $5.7 million handle was 78.9% higher than the same period in 2022.
Circa’s model could make for interesting doings in Illinois come NFL season, given the rabid following of the Chicago Bears throughout the state. Football wagering is big business, with college and pro football handle totaling more than $1.4 billion from September through January. That was up 10.3% from the same period in 2021 into 2022.
Though the Bears are in a rebuild and coming off a 3-14 season, there is optimism they have a franchise quarterback in Justin Fields, and they enter Thursday night’s draft with a slew of picks after dealing the No. 1 overall selection to Carolina last month. Additionally, archrival Green Bay completed a trade Monday to send quarterback and longtime Bears tormenter Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets, further opening up the NFC North.
Circa’s entry also comes at a time where jockeying for the No. 4 spot for handle among Illinois mobile operators has intensified in recent months. BetMGM has siphoned handle from BetRivers, which remains the clear-cut No. 3 mobile book, and has been scrapping with Caesars, PointsBet, and Barstool for that final top-half spot.
Caesars, which had struggled to gain any traction after a poor rollout in 2020, won that four-way fight in February for the first time with $54 million in accepted bets, with PointsBet and BetMGM within $5 million of that total. Caesars’ rise, along with BetMGM’s entry, have been contributing factors to Barstool finishing last in handle in Illinois for five months running, and its $33 million handle for February represented a decline of 36.8% compared to 2022.
What about the retail sportsbook?
For those asking, if all goes as expected our current Illinois launch timing target is late August. https://t.co/AvjNCiq83E
— Circa Sports (@CircaSports) April 27, 2023
Circa Sports will conduct retail sports wagering for Full House Resorts in Waukegan, where The Temporary by American Place opened in mid-February. Full House still has a temporary permit to conduct casino gaming at The Temporary, and until it is given a full casino license, it cannot apply for an owners’ sports wagering license that allows for in-person betting.