Sports betting was a piece of the broader gaming expansion legislation passed in Illinois earlier this year, and when the state finally gets it up and running, the Land of Lincoln could be one of the sports wagering hubs of the US.
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) expects to make sports betting applications for casinos, horse racetracks, and professional sports arenas and fields available later this month. But the regulatory agency hasn’t set a firm timeline for when the first bet will be placed in the Prairie State.
Since the state signed off on sports betting in mid-2019, expectations, attainable or not, are in place that it will be operational sometime next year. Various studies suggest it would benefit cash-strapped Illinois to move quickly on launching sports betting, because the state could rapidly become one of the largest players in the country.
Chicago’s strong sports tradition and great teams in all major leagues will be able to generate enthusiasm around sports betting,” said French research firm FDJ Gaming Solutions.
By 2023, the annual handle in Illinois could range from $2.8 billion to $5.2 billion, according to Global Market Advisors. At the high end of that range, the Prairie State would likely only trail Nevada in terms of yearly handle.
As has been the case with the effort to bring an integrated resort to Chicago, high costs are seen as one of the primary hurdles to getting sports wagering off the ground in Illinois. For operators, sports betting is already a low-margin business, but the IGB is requesting a whopping $10 million fee for each license.
That figure would apply to casinos, racetracks, and arenas that want a sports betting permit. Should they chose to pay the $10 million, those entities would get 18 months of protection from online and mobile competitors, such as DraftKings and FanDuel. If those companies and rivals want to enter the Illinois sports betting fray, they’ll have to shell out a staggering $20 million fee to the IGB.
MLB’s Chicago Cubs and White Sox, the NFL’s Bears, the Bulls of the NBA, and the NHL’s Blackhawks – the Windy City’s five professional franchises – have been active in working with Prairie State lawmakers on the sports betting issue.
The teams have expressed concern not only about the exorbitant licensing fee, but also verbiage in the gaming legislation that could allow for retail sportsbooks to be located within just a few blocks of Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, United Center, and Guaranteed Rate Field.
Forecasts for the potential size of the Illinois sports betting market, essentially all of which assume operators and teams will eventually come to grips with the licensing costs, are robust.
Even if the low end, $2.8 billion, of the aforementioned Global Market Advisors study materializes, Illinois’ handle would only trail California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Nevada. That’s assuming that the first three even legalize sports betting, which those states haven’t yet done.
Of Illinois’ handle, the firm projects Illinois sportsbooks to hold between $168 and $338 million in revenue,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
There is some speculation that the IGB could set a more detailed timeline for sports betting at its next meeting later this month. But having it ready for the Super Bowl in February, as has previously been rumored, seems unlikely at this point.