Illinois Seeks Applicants for $20M Mobile-Only Sports Betting Licenses

By | August 9, 2021

The Illinois Gaming Board has opened the window for sportsbooks interested in applying for a mobile-only license. But the price tag for one is steep.

Illinois sports betting
Sports betting is coming to the Land of Lincoln now that the Illinois Gaming Board has opened the applications for mobile-only licenses.

The announcement is a critical step for Illinois sports betting. That’s because the in-person registration requirement currently in place will go away for existing licensees once the state awards the first mobile-only license.

According to the state administrative code, IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter had to post the notice and forms for the license application no more than 420 days after the board issued its first sports betting license. Those approvals officially took place at the board’s June 11, 2020, meeting.

The application window will be open for 120 days, with applications due no later than Dec. 3. Within 48 hours after that deadline, state law requires the IGB to announce publicly all qualified and disqualified bidders for the license. Then, within 90 days of that announcement, the board must identify three winning bidders.

With the announcement, the board posted two application forms for the online licenses. The first was a short form for companies currently licensed within the state, while the longer form will be required for companies that either aren’t licensed by the state or hold a temporary permit.

The state is looking to offer three such licenses. They would go to sports betting operators that do not have to have a partnership with an existing casino, racetrack, or professional sports venue – such as Wrigley Field, which received permission on Thursday to build a two-story addition at a corner of the Friendly Confines. That will serve as a DraftKings retail sportsbook. But to get a mobile-only license, the operator will need to pay $20 million. The renewal fee is $1 million every four years.

Order Opened Things At DraftKings, FanDuel

Illinois has already had a taste of what open registration will be like. Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an emergency order in June 2020 waiving the in-person registration requirement, as sports started to resume during the COVID-19 pandemic. But casinos remained closed because of the virus. After allowing it to lapse a month later as casinos reopened, Pritzker reissued it in August as officials placed additional restrictions on some casinos.

That emergency order stayed in effect through April.

The order helped DraftKings and FanDuel quickly establish their position as two of the top operators in the state, even though their retail presence wasn’t in the Chicago area. Without needing to drive to Illinois’ St. Louis suburbs, Chicagoland bettors could register directly on their phone or computer and start betting.

Last week, the IGB released the June sports betting handle and revenue totals. Of the $451.7 million bet in the state for that month, $312.4 million was wagered through DraftKings and FanDuel. DraftKings had the larger handle at $157.1 million, to $155.3 million for FanDuel. But FanDuel beat DraftKings in revenue, $20.1 million to $13.9 million.

Since online wagering started in June 2020, more than $5.1 billion has been wagered on sports in Illinois.

BetMGM Interested?

Besides FanDuel and DraftKings, other sports betting operators currently active in Illinois are BetRivers, PointsBet, Barstool Sportsbook, and Caesars Sportsbook.

The biggest sportsbook not yet in the state is BetMGM, which has shown it can compete with DraftKings and FanDuel for market share in other states. MGM Resorts International, which is a partner in BetMGM with Entain, shows Illinois as a state where BetMGM either has secured or anticipates market access. That’s despite MGM Resorts indicating it would not bid for Chicago’s casino license, which recently had its bid deadline extended in an effort to generate more offers.

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