The Illinois Gaming Board confirmed Thursday that it had approved Tekkorp Corporation’s withdrawal of its application for one of the state’s three online-only sports wagering licenses and announced that the period for submitting applications for the supplemental bidding process will open Tuesday.
The announcement by IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter was expected given that, earlier this month, Tekkorp announced it would not seek shareholder approval to extend talks with Playtech, Caliente Interactive, and Caliplay. The decision led to the winding down of the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) the two sides had planned as part of the bid, effectively ending the pursuit of entry into the Illinois market. Fruchter disclosed during Thursday’s state agency meeting that Tekkorp made the request to withdraw its application on Oct. 14, and he approved the request three days later.
Partnering with Grupo Caliente, the largest sportsbook in Mexico, Tekkorp was on few radars as a potential applicant for one of the $20 million licenses. It came as a surprise that Tekkorp was the only entrant the IGB moved forward in April after completing the initial bidding process. The IGB received three applications during the open period to apply, but none of the bidders were known until April’s announcement.
At that April meeting, the IGB disclosed that Betway withdrew from the process in February, while FuboTV — which shuttered its sportsbook operations earlier this month — was disqualified from the process after a key person did not meet the rigors of the IGB vetting process. A fourth applicant, widely reported to be Tipico, was never granted consideration since its application was received shortly after the Dec. 3 deadline.
Application submission opens Tuesday
Fruchter announced that the start of the period when the IGB will receive applications to begin the supplemental bidding process will open at midnight local time Tuesday and run through 11:59 p.m. Central Time on March 1. Existing sports wagering license holders are eligible to apply for online-only licenses, in addition to sportsbooks that have yet to enter Illinois.
There are currently seven mobile operators in Illinois, with BetMGM the most recent entrant in March. Adding operators has come at a relatively slow pace for the IGB coming out of the pandemic. Barstool Sportsbook was the only mobile entity to enter the fray in 2021 after BetRivers, DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars Sportsbook, and PointsBet all launched operations in a four-month span in the middle of 2020.
Mobile wagering took off in Illinois faster than expected thanks to the suspension of the in-person registration requirement during the pandemic. Illinois’ $5.8 billion sports betting handle in 2022 ranks fourth nationally, though it will reclaim third from Nevada when the IGB releases September figures.
There are five applicants for Management Service Provider licenses currently in the IGB’s queue, as Circa Sports, Unibet, Bally Bet, WynnBET, and Hard Rock are all seeking mobile licenses that would be tethered to state casinos. Additionally, the IGB is currently reviewing the first application submitted for a sports facility sports wagering license, as Betfair is looking to conduct business as FanDuel at the United Center. DraftKings is also expected to submit a sports facility sports wagering license application soon, considering it has plans to open a two-story sportsbook adjacent to Wrigley Field in time for Opening Day 2023.
Based on the previous timeline from the close of the application period to when Tekkorp was announced as the sole applicant to move forward for potential license suitability, the winning bidder or bidders for the state’s online-only licenses likely would not be known until August 2023 at the earliest.