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Batter Up: The First Illinois Sportsbook Steps Up To The Plate

While it is only retail betting at first, the era of Illinois sports betting is officially underway after Rivers Des Plaines accepted the state’s first bet.

The Land of Lincoln, Illinois, officially welcomed its first sports bet on Monday. Last Friday, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) officially gave its seal of approval to Rivers Casino to accept legal sports betting.

Opening for business on Monday, March 9 at noon, Rivers Casino Des Plaines kicked things off with a ceremony commemorating the big day. The launch sure cut it close but arrived just in the nick of time for March Madness wagers.

According to Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Rivers Casino Corey Wise:

“The BetRivers Sportsbook will take March Madness out of the office pool and into an exciting, elevated live sports wagering experience. We are grateful to the Illinois Gaming Board staff for their work approving our sportsbook in time for the college basketball tournament—one of the greatest sports events of the year.”

About the Illinois sports betting market

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Blackhawks announcer Eddie Olczyk had the honor of placing the state’s first bet. Veering from hockey, he placed $100 on the White Sox to win the American League pennant. Finally, he pledges any potential wins toward colon cancer research for Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Every state that legalized sports betting differ in certain areas like the tax rate, licensing fees, and whether online betting is offered. Here is a look at how it compares to Indiana:

Illinois sports betting tax rate

The Prairie State dictates that casinos pay 15% tax on any sports betting revenue. However, Rivers pays a 17% tax rate and this higher tax rate will also include any other casinos in Cook County (Chicago area).

Compared to Indiana’s tax rate of 9.5% or even Iowa at 6.75% tax rate, the higher Illinois tax rate could spell slower growth for the state.

$10 million maximum license fees

In addition, casinos may need to fork out as much as $10 million for licensing for the full suite of licenses: including retail and online.

Again, drawing comparisons to Indiana and Iowa, theses states only charge a maximum of $100,000 to obtain necessary licenses.

Delaying online sports betting and requiring online betting registrations

Illinois also requires in-person registration in order to sports bet online or use a mobile device.

Primarily, there are three key aspects:

  1. Casinos must open a retail sportsbook before the launch of any online or mobile platforms
  2. Interested sports bettors need to register for online or mobile platforms use in-person at the relevant casino
  3. The in-person requirements last a total of 18 months after the launch of the first retail sportsbook.

These requirements are to delay standalone online sportsbook operators from launching for 18 months. This means Indiana has the upper hand for at least another year.

The impact of Illinois sports betting on Indiana

In order to assess the impact of Illinois sports betting on Indiana, we can turn to Iowa as an example. Legal Sports Report examined why sports betting grew in Indiana in the month of December compared to Iowa’s flattening growth.

Indeed, Iowa reported a small decline of 0.1% of $59.3 million compared to Indiana growing 9.9% to $161.8 million. Most of all, Indiana has fewer restrictions than Iowa. In particular, Indiana residents have the option of placing bets at retail, brick-and-mortar casinos, and mobile apps.

Moreover, Iowa, like Illinois, requires in-person registration until 2021. Whereas, Indiana does not have a registration requirement.

And, unlike Indiana, Iowa and Illinois both currently lack the two kings of online sportsbooks: FanDuel and DraftKings. On the bright side, Iowa, unlike Illinois, currently does accept online wagers, which accounted for 55.8% of revenue for the fiscal year.

Finally, some sports bettors will not travel to border casinos located in Hammond, East Chicago, and Gary. For now, it is doubtful that many Illinois sports bettors will choose BetRivers over Indiana properties. However, only time will tell.

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