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by Dan Katz

Rivers Casino does the honors

On Monday, Illinois became the 15th state to launch legal, regulated sports betting. Rivers Casino in Des Plaines opened its sportsbook at 10:00am, kicking off the state’s new industry.

According to the Illinois Gaming Board’s website, four other casinos have received temporary operating permits for sports wagering: Argosy Casino in Alton, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Hollywood Casino Aurora, and Hollywood Casino Joliet.

Those casinos’ “wagering status” is different than Rivers Casino’s, though, as none of them have actually been approved to start accepting bets. Rivers Casino’s status is “provisionary.”

Management went all-out with BetRivers

The BetRivers SportsBar at Rivers Casino covers 4,840 square feet and has five betting windows to go along with 30 sports betting kiosks.

It is designed for people to spend the day. The highlight of the SportsBar is a 47-foot-wide ultra HD LED video wall. In addition, there are ten 86-inch and four 75-inch televisions all around the room. Bettors and sports fans can watch games in any of 32 leather lounge chairs, another 32 seats at the bar, or at one of many tables.

“The BetRivers lounge will provide an experience that rivals a live game-day stadium,” said Rivers Des Plains General Manager Corey Wise, in December. “We will offer sports fans a premium luxury experience with great visuals, acoustics, service and comradery with fellow sports fans.”

Former Chicago Blackhawks star and member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Eddie Olczyk had the honor of placing the first bet at BetRivers. He put $100 on the Chicago White Sox to win the American League pennant, getting 16-to-1 odds.

Online sports betting yet to launch

It will be a while before anyone in Illinois can place sports bets online, as online sports wagering is in a bit of an odd situation. There are three mobile-only licenses up for grabs, but the catch is that nobody can even apply for one until 18 months after retail sports betting goes live. And who knows if they will, anyway, as the one-time licensing fee is $20 million.

The reason for this delay is to protect the in-state, brick-and-mortar licensees’ mobile apps, giving them a head start. There are none yet, but even when there are, usage rates will likely be low because gamblers are required to register for an online account in person.

That in-person requirement will disappear when the first mobile-only license is granted. And since the licenses won’t be approved until three months after the applications are collected, Illinois is staring at nearly two years of in-person registration. For people who don’t live near a brick-and-mortar sportsbook, that is a serious deterrent.

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