The Illinois Gaming Board continued an active summer on the sports wagering front Thursday, approving Hard Rock for both mobile and retail licenses and announcing Betway as the lone winning bidder for one of the state’s three online-only wagering licenses.
At its meeting last month, the state agency OK’d a retail wagering license for Full House Resorts, which runs The Temporary in Waukegan. Circa Sports is handling both retail and mobile betting for Full House, and it is projecting to launch in the back half of September, early in the NFL regular season, per a Tweet from Circa Director of Operations Jeffrey Benson.
Hard Rock, which recently unveiled a complete makeover of its mobile app now named Hard Rock Bet, will need to make a request to the IGB to commence wagering after being approved for its Management Services Provider license required for sports wagering. The IGB retroactively set Hard Rock Casino Rockford‘s four-year Master Sports Wagering license to January to align with the approval date of the casino license required to apply for a retail license.
“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,” said Geno Iafrate, President of Hard Rock Casino Rockford in a statement e-mailed to Sports Handle. “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.”
Betway was one of two applicants for the state’s online-only licenses that come with a $20 million price tag. This was a supplemental application process, with Betway having withdrawn its application during the initial review process last year. A supplemental bidding period took place after the lone previous bidder to move forward, Tekkorp, withdrew last October. Betway bid a total of $22.5 million for the license, noting the $20 million as the minimum license requirement and an additional $2.5 million “committed at the Applicant’s discretion.”
The IGB noted Betway “meets the minimum qualifications for licensure” and must still go through the board’s full vetting process before being granted a Master Sports Wagering license for an online-only operator. There were originally two applications submitted to the IGB in the period allowed from Nov. 1 to March 1, and the IGB posted on its website later Thursday the other applicant was J&J LLC, which was to be a subsidiary of J&J Ventures. The Illinois-based gaming company is among the state’s leading vendors for video gaming terminals (VGTs) and submitted a bid of just over $23 million for the online-only license.
IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter did not disclose the identity of J&J LLC during the meeting, but he noted it sought to withdraw the application July 10. Fruchter granted permission for J&J LLC to withdraw the application Monday, leading to Thursday’s reveal of Betway as the lone bidder to move forward in the process.
Big sports betting market about to get bigger
Running all-time, post-PASPA Top 10 #SportsBetting handles (June in CAPS)
1 NEW JERSEY $38.9B
2 Nevada $33B
3 NEW YORK $25.8B
4 Illinois $23.4B
5 PENNSYLVANIA $22.4B
6 INDIANA $12.6B
7 Colorado $12.5B
8 MICHIGAN $11.1B <-NEW
9 Virginia $10.4B
10 Arizona $10.2B#GamblingTwitter
— Chris Altruda (@AlTruda73) July 25, 2023
Illinois is one of five states to have generated sports betting handle above $1 billion in any month in the post-PASPA era, and among those states it has the fewest number of online books other than Nevada. Illinois has been No. 2 nationally in handle from February through May, but it has not had a new mobile entrant since BetMGM launched in March 2022.
The state’s marketplace leaders are FanDuel and DraftKings, with BetRivers having status at No. 3. BetMGM, a resurgent Caesars Sportsbook, and PointsBet — which is being acquired by Fanatics — are all vying for the No. 4 spot and have pushed down Barstool Sportsbook in recent months.
The impending arrival of Circa and likely launch of Hard Rock Bet ahead of the NFL season would give Illinois bettors nine mobile options come September — a number level with New York, the No. 1 market in the U.S.
Illinois may not have the population volume to knock the Empire State off the monthly handle throne, but additional operators come football season could result in greater than incremental steps in setting record monthly handle. Illinois crossed $1 billion handle for the first time last October at $1.03 billion. After narrowly missing topping that amount in November and December, it ticked higher to $1.07 billion in January and $1.072 billion in March.