Seven Illinois Casinos Get Master Licenses for Sports Betting

While there’s still nowhere to place your bets in Illinois, seven different casinos received master licenses on Thursday from the Illinois Gaming Board. However, even with those newly acquired licenses, IGB rules determine that casinos need to separately request approval to start accepting bets online – or through mobile applications.

The seven casinos that were approved for four-year master licenses to accept sports betting wagers are Argosy Casino Alton, Grand Victoria Casino, Hollywood Casino Aurora, Hollywood Casino Joliet, Rivers Casino-Des Plaines, Casino Queen Inc., and Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino.

“Every licensee is treated independently, and there is no set timetable to commence wagering. Requests will be granted once received if the licensees meet all necessary requirements,” said Gaming Board policy director Joe Miller.

It’s worth noting that Argosy and Rivers had already begun retail sports betting operations before the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, those casinos opened days before everything in the sports world came to a screeching halt.

Getting these licenses now puts over $40 million into state funds through the one-time fees; those will be different for each based on a percentage of gross revenue from last year, which is also capped at $10 million.

The money seems great and all, but there is still a huge deficit to fill in the state with funds lost from the coronavirus shutdown. Casinos in Illinois made over $114 million from March to June in 2019, while video gambling terminals brought in nearly $147 million.

Unfortunately, Governor JB Pritzker’s administration will be reaching in to take nearly everything it can so the state can recover more smoothly. Pritzker just signed an operating budget plan on Wednesday that is largely reliant on borrowing money that will contribute to tacking away at a nearly $3 billion deficit.

“Governor Pritzker’s executive order allows Illinois sports fans to temporarily place wagers from the safety of their own home, protecting a revenue source that is critical as the state begins to recover from the damaging financial impact of COVID-19,” said Marcus Fruchter, Administrator of the Illinois Gaming Board.

Clock Started

Getting the licenses also means that the 18-month timeout period for online-only sports betting mega-names like DraftKings and FanDuel can begin. In an awkward set of circumstances, the state’s big gambling expansion law gives retail locations a head start over the bigger companies.

This gives the in-state guys a chance to grow a fanbase and actually sit in the same row as the bigger companies.

Once that 18-month timeout period is over for DraftKings and FanDuel, they will then be hit with a $20 million initial licensing fee. It really doesn’t seem fair at all, but it appears like Illinois wants to keep its money inside the state. This is certainly a different way of doing business.

While all of that plays out, the Illinois casinos will do their best to make plenty of money while the giants aren’t lurking around. Pritzker helped out his in-state casinos last week, throwing in a donation on his coronavirus disaster proclamation that allows bettors to sign up for sports betting accounts online rather than in person at a casino, which was initially stated as part of the law.

As soon as any of those licensed casinos puts in an IGB request and is approved for wagering, bettors can carry on like they were supposed to a few months ago.

Illinois is right there in terms of getting everything it ever wanted from legalized sports betting. Barring a few unforeseen incidents, as we saw a few months ago, it should be smooth sailing whenever the professional sports leagues get back to play.


Logan is based in Los Angeles and is an avid poker player having played in tournaments across the globe. He covers both poker & regulatory affairs.