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Seven retail casinos in Illinois have been awarded full sports betting licenses, and will now be permitted to offer this vertical to players. 

Of the seven outlets to receive their permits, two were already operating under temporary licenses beforehand. 

Players will have to wait, however. At the moment, the state still hasn’t given venues the green light to reopen from their COVID-19-forced shutdowns. 

The first sports bets in the regulated Illinois market were taken prior to the lockdown commencing in March. 

Which Illinois casinos have been awarded sports betting licenses? 

Rivers Casino in De Plaines, as well as Argosy Casino in Alton, had both been operating with temporary sports betting licenses. Thanks to these, they were able to take the first bets in Illinois’ regulated market three months ago. However, they were forced to close their doors one week after initially offering the vertical.

Two Hollywood Casinos – one in Aurora and another in Joliet – have also been given the green light to offer sports betting once they can reopen. The other three Illinois casinos to be awarded sports betting licenses are Grand Casino Victoria in Elgin, Par-A-Dice in East Peoria and Casino Queen in East St. Louis. 

Through the awarding of these licenses, the state has made $40 million in immediate license fee payments. 

Each of the state’s three horse racing tracks have also applied for sports betting licenses. But at the moment, none of these have been approved. Large sporting facilities like Wrigley Field and the United Center have also put forward their applications for this vertical. But, like the racing tracks neither has had their desires met.

When will casinos in Illinois reopen? 

While casinos in states such as Nevada have begun to welcome back customers (albeit at a limited capacity), there still isn’t a set date for the Prairie State doing likewise. However, casino operators are hopeful that they can start welcoming players back by the end of this month. 

Last week, Illinois Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter discussed the resumption of the state’s gambling industry. In a board meeting held via video conference, he said the following. 

“Gov. (J.B.) Pritzker and the Illinois Gaming Board are mindful of the hardship and dire economic disruption this pandemic is causing for our industry, our licensees, their employees, and communities and families across Illinois.

“We are committed to the safe, fair, deliberate, consistent and regulatory compliant resumption of casino and video gaming when health conditions permit.”

In the meantime, players in Illinois could drive over the border to neighboring Indiana to gamble. Horseshoe Hammond lies just 20 miles from downtown Chicago, and will be allowed to reopen its doors from today. 

When will online sports betting come to Illinois? 

The awarding of the seven sports betting licenses means that the 18-month “penalty-box” period for online-only operators, such as FanDuel and DraftKings, is now underway. This particular piece of legislation was introduced to give retail operators a head-start. It means that they’re allowed to apply for online sports betting licenses before their digital counterparts.

In the past, the two sportsbooks have – in the eyes of former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan – operated in the Land of Lincoln illegally. This was via a gray area within the daily fantasy sports vertical. 

Once both are allowed to operate here, they will be obliged to pay initial licensing fees of $20 million each. 

Last week, Governor Pritzker added a provision to his state coronavirus response that allows players to register for sports betting accounts online. Under the normal legislation, it’s only possible that they can do so in-person. But since no casinos are open right now, they have not been able to do that. 

Time will tell if these increase players’ interest. As of Thursday afternoon, zero requests had been submitted. 

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