“We are excited to make history in bringing the first online sportsbook to sports fans in our home state just in time as American sports are coming back into action,” said Richard Schwartz, president of Rush Street Interactive, in a statement Thursday.
BetRivers, through its partner Rivers Casino Des Plaines, expects to take bets beginning at 10 a.m. central time. The Cook County casino was also the first Illinois facility to take a legal in-person sports bet.
Eligible Illinois residents and visitors age 21 and older can sign up and deposit funds with the BetRivers mobile site from anywhere within state lines. In addition to the UFC, PGA Tour, NASCAR and the handful of other professional sports competing currently, BetRivers expects to take bets on NBA, WNBA, NHL and European soccer leagues set to resume play later this summer.
Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive also plans to take bets through its BetRivers Illinois sportsbook on the 2020 professional and college football seasons should they begin their respective seasons as scheduled. The site will also stream hundreds of hours of live sporting events through its site.
“While entertainment options are limited as we seek to minimize the spread of the virus, we are focused on BetRivers.com providing sportsbook players with a high-quality online product with exciting sports betting options,” Schwartz said. “We will have great customer service with fast payouts and an overall friendly approach that treats every player with honesty and care.”
As part of its launch promotion, all eligible BetRivers players will receive a bonus match of up to $250 on their first deposit.
To sign up remotely, players will be guided by prompts through the simplest way to get in on the action, depending on the device they use. According to BetRivers’ launch announcement, Android users must go to the same BetRivers.com website to download the new Illinois app to wager on their mobile devices.
Apple users can register and bet using the browsers on their mobile devices. The BetRivers iOS app in Illinois is expected to launch soon, officials said in a press release.
Illinois will be the fifth state BetRivers’ parent company, Rush Street Interactive, takes a mobile sports bet, following New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Colorado. The company operates retail sportsbooks in all those states, as well as New York.
Rush Street Interactive, and the industry as a whole, are especially excited about Illinois. The sixth-largest state by population (and the second-largest to offer mobile sports betting, after Pennsylvania), Illinois should quickly become one of the highest-grossing markets in the country.
This is largely due to mobile betting. Once mature, industry observers expect mobile betting to make up as much as 90% of the state’s total wagering handle. This could generate hundreds of millions in gross sports betting revenues annually.
BettingUSA also operates IllinoisBetting.com – bookmark and follow for a detailed BetRivers Illinois review shortly.
Thursday’s launch caps off a difficult legislative and logistical journey.
Illinois lawmakers pursed gambling dollars in recent years to plug holes in its underfunded budget. Beginning with riverboat casinos in the 1990’s, Illinois has slowly expanded options, including thousands of video lottery terminals throughout the state.
Lawmakers considered sports betting shortly after the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban in 2018, but divides between the myriad different gaming operators, casinos, horse tracks, sports leagues and other stakeholders stalled legislation in Springfield.
In the final hours of the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers struck an unexpected compromise. To appease the land-based stakeholders, online licenses were restricted, and all mobile players had to first register in person at a land-based facility.
With casinos shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. J.B. Pritzker suspended the in-person registration requirement beginning June 4. At the time, only Rivers Casino Des Plaines and Argosy Casino Alton had opened sportsbooks, both of which had been shut down in March due to the coronavirus.
The Illinois Gaming Board has approved five additional casinos for retail sportsbooks, all of which will likely also set up online options. It remains to be seen when or if Pritzker or the Illinois Gaming Board will revoke the in-person sign-up waiver, or when brick-and-mortar casinos can reopen, but bettor should expect several more retail and mobile options in the coming weeks and months.
For now, eligible bettors can place bets through one site today, in the process launching one of the most anticipated digital sports betting markets in the country.