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Illinois Renews Seven Retail Sportsbook Licenses

Alexander Canario Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates
Alexander Canario #4 of the Chicago Cubs is doused with water after a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Michael Reaves/Getty Images/AFP

The Land of Lincoln launched retail sports betting in March 2020, and those sportsbooks that were part of that initial wave saw a renewal of their licenses earlier this month.

Welcome Back

Marcus Fruchter, administrator of the Illinois Gaming Board, has renewed seven retail sportsbook licenses including Argosy Casino Alton, DraftKings at Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Hollywood Casino Aurora, Hollywood Casino Joliet, Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in East Peoria, and Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

Illinois now boasts 15 retail sportsbooks with 11 located inside brick-and-mortar casinos while three can be found at off-track betting locations under the license of Hawthorne Race Course. But the newest retail sportsbook has its own unique and historic venue – Wrigley Field – home of the Chicago Cubs. DraftKings opened up the retail location in March shortly before the Major League Baseball season.

The retail sportsbook licenses are good for four years, which means the next round will be coming up for the second wave of brick-and-mortar sportsbooks to enter the state. In the first 46 months of operations, retail sports betting has generated $99.5 million in adjusted gross sports betting revenue on an 8.9% hold or win rate.

In-State College Sports Banned

An amendment allowing wagering on in-state college events was not extended by the Illinois General Assembly, which means bets cannot be placed on popular Division 1 programs like Northwestern and the University of Illinois hailing from the Big Ten, Northern Illinois of the MAC, and the University of Loyola basketball team from the Atlantic 10 Conference.

This law will go into effect on July 1st and the earliest it can be vetoed is during the fall legislative session. However, Illinois residents will still be able to place bets on college games involving schools from outside the state, which encompasses the vast majority of college sporting events.

One of Many

Nevertheless, a movement is afoot by the NCAA to ban college player props across the nation. Several states like New York, Massachusetts, and as recently as April 3rd for Louisiana, have banned college player props. There is growing concern that collegiate athletes are being harassed for not performing up to expectations for bettors wagering on their individual performances.

Charlie Baker, former Massachusetts governor and current NCAA commissioner, has been vocal about banning college player props and has taken his crusade across the nation, talking to lawmakers from states that allow those wagers.

“Sports betting issues are on the rise across the country with prop bets continuing to threaten the integrity and competition and leading to student athletes and professional athletes getting harassed,” Baker said this past March. “The NCAA has been working with states to deal with these threats and many are responding by banning college prop bets.”

However, opponents of the ban believe that the number of incidents does not rise to the level of concern and that banning college player props will not only reduce the bottom line for sportsbooks but the state’s revenues as well. Naturally, lower revenues generated by the sportsbooks lead to lower tax collections but the damage could go even further if it drives bettors away from the domestic market and into the welcoming arms of the offshore sites that routinely offer college player props.

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