State gambling regulators expect to release license applications for potential sports betting operators next month, marking the first step toward launching the newly legalized industry in Illinois.
Illinois Gaming Board administrator Marcus Fruchter announced Thursday the applications will be available on or before the agency’s next board meeting Dec. 19 “barring any unforeseen circumstances.”
It’s not clear how long it will take the Gaming Board to process applications and issue sports wagering licenses, which will cost up to $10 million each and, for the first 18 months of the industry’s rollout, are limited to casinos, horse racetracks and large sports arenas.
After that 18-month “penalty box” period, online-only betting sites like FanDuel and DraftKings will be able to apply for licenses at a whopping $20 million apiece.
Illinois Gaming Board administrator Marcus Fruchter. Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times
Most casinos and all three of the state’s horse tracks have said they’ll pursue sports betting licenses. Sports arenas with capacities of 17,000 or more — like Wrigley Field and the United Center — are also eligible to open sportsbooks either inside or within five blocks of the stadium.
Still, after the applications are out, the Gaming Board has not set a timeline for when Illinoisans will be able to place sports bets.
“It is something that [our] staff has been working very hard on, and we’re moving forward with sports wagering work and with all the other work that the board and the staff have to do, but we are making progress,” Fruchter said at a Gaming Board meeting Thursday.
Sports wagering was a priority for Gov. J.B. Pritzker as part of the massive gambling expansion law he signed in late June, which also authorized six new casinos and expanded video gambling machines statewide. Tax revenue from the expansion is earmarked for his signature $45 billion capital plan.
Sponsors of the sports betting law initially estimated the industry could launch in time for the NFL kickoff in September. But a rollout in time for the Super Bowl in February might still be too optimistic.
As evidenced by numerous emails received by the Gaming Board in a public comment period, eager Illinois bettors have been impatient to see sports betting roll out as the industry launched over the summer in Iowa and Indiana, with the closest sportsbook to Chicago opening ahead of the NFL season just across the border in Hammond, Indiana.
Indiana netted more than $800,000 in tax revenue on the more than $35.2 million that was plunked down in Hoosier casinos during the first month of that state’s sports betting in September.
But the Gaming Board had to draft hundreds of pages of rules governing sports betting that weren’t outlined in the Illinois law, no easy lift for an agency that insiders say was overworked and understaffed even before the number of state gambling options it oversees nearly doubled with this year’s expansion.
Those sports betting rules are expected to be released in December along with applications.