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Rush Street on top in early months of Illinois betting


Rush Street’s Rivers Des Plaines has taken an early lead in the Illinois sports betting market, with figures from the state’s Gaming Board revealing that it accounted for the vast majority of amounts wagered between March and July. 

The Illinois Gaming Board revealed that players wagered $61.8m since 9 March, when Rivers Des Plaines took the first legal bets in the state via its Kambi-powered sportsbook. Penn National’s Argosy Casino Alton riverboat casino was the only other property to begin accepting wagers during that month.

The market’s development was slowed by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, however, which meant that all casinos shut from March 16. 

With online betting not launching until June 18 – again, with Rivers and Kambi the first to go live – no bets could be placed between March 16 until that date.

While the state’s land-based facilities did not resume operations until 1 July, an 18-month in-person registration requirement, was temporarily lifted by an executive order in early June, allowing operators to accept players that sign up online. 

This order was then allowed to lapse, meaning that players had to once again register in-person for a sportsbook account, only to be reinstated from August 21 amid rising Covid-19 case numbers. 

While the Gaming Board only released handle figures for each month of legal wagering, these are broken down into professional and collegiate sports, and then by the two tiers of legal bets. Tier one bets, which accounted for the vast majority of stakes, are win-lose propositions, while tier two wagers are bets determined by in-game events, such as player performance. 

In March, customers staked $754,739. Tier one wagers on professional sports accounted for $600,150 of stakes, of which $596,912 was wagered through Rivers Des Plaine’s brick-and-mortar sportsbook, with just $3,238 staked via Argosy Casino Alton. 

A further $62,405 in bets were placed in tier two markets during the month, all via Rivers. In total, 10,278 bets were placed on professional sports across both licensed operators.

March also saw $269,923 in tier one bets placed on collegiate sports, and $65,260 in tier two bets, again, all via Rivers. Players placed 2,290 wagers on these events. 

After no legal bets were placed between 16 March and 18 June, Rivers customers wagered $8.3m via the operator’s new online sportsbook before the end of the month, the only legal offering available during that period. 

This broke down to $4.8m in tier one bets on professional sport, and $3.5m in tier two stakes. A further $2,197 in tier one collegiate bets were placed – at a time when collegiate sporting events were suspended or cancelled – and no tier two bets accepted. 

Amounts wagered then soared in July, with handle jumping to $52.5m at a time when the state’s casinos reopened and professional sports around the world returned. 

Customers placed $3.0m in tier one professional sports wagers over the counter, comprising handle of $2.5m from Rivers Des Plaines, and $557,726 at Argosy Casino Alton. A further $980,484 in tier two bets were placed, breaking down to $$928,605 from Rivers and $51,879 from Argosy.

However, Rivers’ online sportsbook was the standout performer in its first full month live. Customers staked $27.0m on tier one professional markets in July, and a further $21.5m in tier two bets. It was the only licensed online book active during the period. 

However, after major collegiate sports leagues cancelled their 2020 football seasons due to Covid-19, betting on college sports declined further in July. Just $1,923 in tier one bets were placed during the month, and only $20 was wagered on tier two markets. 

Following the end of the reporting period, the market has grown significantly, with a number of additional operators launching across August and September. DraftKings, partnered with Casino Queen in East St Louis, went Iive on August 5 with a retail sportsbook and a mobile offering, 

FanDuel, through its partnership with Boyd Gaming’s Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, followed on September 1, again with a mobile and retail book, with PointsBet going live on September 14 through its partnership with Hawthorne Racecourse.

William Hill today (September 16) became the latest to enter the market, rolling out a mobile sportsbook via Caesars Entertainment’s Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin.