Rivers Casino Des Plaines $87M Expansion Reaches Milestone

Rivers Casino Des Plaines Logo and Exterior Image
The Rivers Casino Des Plaines $87M expansion reached a milestone on Monday with the placement of the final structural beam during a topping off ceremony.

The 87,000 square feet project includes a new poker room, additional slot machines, a new restaurant, and an events ballroom. The expansion will add 725 gambling positions, bringing the casino’s total to 2,000 which is the maximum allowed by the state.

Said Corey Wise, senior vice president and general manager of Rivers Casino:

“We are investing in the property to provide our guests more dining amenities, more entertainment, more gaming options, and what will be the Midwest’s best poker room,”

ATwo-Phase Expansion

The expansion will be done in two phases with the initial one expected to be completed during winter. It includes the ground-level addition which will house the new restaurant, and the expanded gaming floor for additional slot machines and table games.

Phase 2 includes the second floor of the new facility which includes a 22-table poker room, a slot machine area, anda 10,000 square feet ballroom for private events and live entertainment.

The new area will be located between the current casino building and the newly-expanded parking area on the North side of the property at 3000 S.River Road.

Creation of 400 New Jobs

The project is expected to create 400 new permanent jobs, including 250 table game dealers for the expanded gaming area. According to the company, the recruitment process for these vacancies has already started.

This expansion is just the latest in several upgrades that the Rivers Casino Des Plaines has undergone in recent years. After Illinois legalized sports betting in the summer of 2019, the Des Plaines-based casino took the first legal sports bet in the state through a retail BetRivers sportsbook inside the property.

Currently, the gambling property has a 5,000 square foot sports bar with a 47-foot wide video wall, with five betting windows, and 30 self service betting kiosks.

Limited In-State College Sports Betting Bill Filed in Illinois

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Limited betting on in-state college sports could soon be legalized in Illinois after a two-year trial bill has been filed in the General Assembly on the last scheduled day of the legislative session.

Sponsored by Blue Island Rep. Bob Rita, the omnibus sports bill could pass both chambers before they adjourn on Monday after passing a committee on Monday afternoon.

In Person Illinois Sports Betting

Persons who want to make in-state college sports bets in Illinois must go to a brick and mortar sportsbook instead of an online one. A bet on an Illinois college team must be a Tier 1 wager, meaning it is solely determined by the final outcome of a sporting event. It must also be placed before the start of the game.

The new Illinois sports betting bill also permits the Wintrust Arena, home of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, to become a spots betting venue. The initial fee for the Wintrust Arena would be $10M or 5% of gross receipts, whichever is lower. The license could be renewed in four years at a fee of $1M.

If the bill is passed by the lawmakers ang signed by the Governor, it will immediately take effect. The provision would run through July 1,2023 and betting on individual performances is not legal.

Video Gaming Provisions

The Illinois college sports betting bill also increased the cap for the annual fee that non-home rule municipalities charge on video game terminals from $25 to $250. The $250 fee would apply to home municipalities too although lawmakers intend to include a provision that allows the municipalities who charge more to continue to do so.

Under the measure, municipalities are also prevented from taxing video gambling machines or the bets placed on those machines. If municipalities have already levied such taxes on video game gambling on June 1st, they may continue to charge it but cannot increase, expand, or extend the tax rate on persons playing video game terminals.

Fraternal organizations such as VFW posts and American Legions are also allowed to apply for gambling machine licenses even if their municipalities have a local ban on them. The Illinois sports betting bill also allows fraternal facilities without liquor licenses to apply. However, the foregoing provisions shall not apply to Chicago and Cook County facilities.

In-Person Registration for Sports Betting Accounts in Illinois is Now Required

Man on Laptop With a Sportsbook Board and Football Stadium

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has recalled an order that allowed online registration for Illinois sports bettors. According to a statement from the governor’s office, the suspension of in person sports betting registration is “no longer needed”:

“Illinois is currently in phase four with vaccination rates rapidly increasing and casinos around the state have reopened with safety guidelines in place, so the suspension of in person sports betting registration requirements is no longer needed.”

Giving Land-Based Casinos a Head Start

The Illinois sports betting law, signed by Pritzker in 2019, was written with the in-person registration requirement in order to give land-based casinos a headstart over online gambling giants FanDuel and DraftKings. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, Pritzker issued an executive order allowing Illinoisans to register online because brick and mortar casinos were ordered closed.

When these casinos re-opened in July, Priztker ended the provision. However, after an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the state, he once again allowed online registration. Last Sunday, the governor’s office issued a statement saying online registration is “no longer needed” and that in-person registration will be required before one can place a sports bet in Illinois.

Putting the Brakes on Illinois Sports Betting

Industry analysts were quick to say that Pritkzer’s new order “puts the brakes” on a fast growing Illinois sports betting market that could’ve easily make it as among the Top 5 in the industry. Legal Illinois sports betting fetched more than $1.6B in bets since its launch in March 2020. These bets have given the state more than $28M in tax revenues.

DraftKings and Fanduel, which held 72% of the total market during the month of January, were quick to tie up with casinos and racetracks to avoid delay. Although this latest move by the governor will not knock off either FanDuel or DraftKings from their lofty places, their inability to register new users could hinder their growth.

A Premature Move?

However, Pritzker’s move may be a premature one as COVID-19 cases are currently on the rise in Illinois. According to the Illinois Department of Health, the number of new cases daily has reached 2,000 for every day since March 24th, with the number of hospitalization cases also increasing.

Officials in Cook County, the largest in the state, said that they have over 600 new cases of COVID-19 in their jurisdiction alone, According to Cook health official Dr. Rachel Rubin, the state could be entering another phase of a “surge” in COVID-19 cases.

theScore Gains Access to Illinois Market via Caesars Entertainment

Person Browsing a Sports Betting Site on a Tablet
A deal with Caesars Entertainment’s Harrah’s Joliet Hotel and Casino has given Canadian-based betting operator Score Media and Gaming Inc. access to the Illinois sports betting market. Although theScore still needs to get the necessary regulatory approval from the Illinois Gaming Board, the company expects to start accepting online sports bets via its theScore Bet online sportsbook during the second half of 2021.

Said John Levy, chairman and chief executive officer of theScore:

“Gaining market access to Illinois is a significant development that will bring our award-winning mobile sportsbook to one of the most populous states. Caesars is a giant in the casino-entertainment industry and we’re thrilled to have reached this agreement to extend theScore Bet’s footprint into another key new market.”

Ten-Year Partnership

The partnership is initially valid for 10 years but is renewable, at the option of Score Media and Gaming Inc. Under the agreement, Caesars Entertainment will also reimburse Score Media and Gaming Inc. with certain costs and licensing fees.

The deal also provides that Caesars Entertainment will receive a percentage of the revenue from theScore Bet’s Illinois sports betting operations. That amount is subject to certain annual minimum guaranteed amounts.

theScore Scores Access to a Fifth State

By joining the Illinois sports betting industry, Score Media and Gaming Inc. now has access to five different states in the U.S. Currently, the Canadian sports betting operator is live in New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, and Iowa. Using its homegrown theScore Bet mobile app, theScore provides cross-state experiences for sports bettors as it expands across the United States via a single mobile app.

Score Media and Gaming Inc. operates theScore which is one of the most popular sports media apps in North America, delivering its user fans personalized live scores, news, stats, and betting information. The company launched its sports betting app theScore Bet on September 3, 2019, becoming the first media company in North America to operate a sportsbook in the United States.

First OTB Site in Illinois Opens in Crestwood

Handful of Money With a Sportsbook Background
The newly remodeled Club Hawthorne in Crestwood opened the first non-casino, off-track betting site with a sportsbook in Illinois last week.

Club Hawthorne boasts of a 163-inch HERO LED video wall, two dozen 75-inch TV screens throughout the viewing area, and a state of the art audio system. The venue has leather couches, captain’s chairs, and highboy tables for patrons, with a post COVID-19 capacity of up to 500 people.

The venue shares a building with an off-track retail betting shop which the horse track has operated since 1989 at 13148 Rivercrest Drive. The sportsbook is a partnership between Hawthorne and PointsBet.

Said PointsBet Midwest senior business operations manager Michael Teal:

“This is going to be a place where people can come down with their buddies and enjoy the game.”

First of its Kind

The owners of the new Illinois sports betting shop is advertising the venue as among the first in the country and the first of its kind in Illinois. Other sports betting shops in the state are located at casinos and racetracks.

Hawthorne and Fairmont Park are the only horse tracks licensed for Illinois sports betting.The OTB site in Crestwood is one of three OTB locations where Hawthorne is allowed to conduct legal Illinois sports betting activities as part of the Sports Wagering Act signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker in 2018. Eventually, Hawthorne will also operate OTB sites in Prospect Heights and Oakbrook Terrace.

American Pro Sports are Main Sources of Bets

American Pro Sports like the NFL, MLB, and MBA are the main sources of Illinois sports betting, accounting for about $600M of the state’s total $941.7M total handle through October. College sports and Motosports accounted for $100M apiece. Online Illinois sports betting began in June 2020 and it accounted for $873.7M of the total handle with the remaining $68M worth of bets wagered in person.

The state is capturing 15% of sports betting revenues via taxes. The taxes collected from sports betting will help pay for public parks, schools, libraries, and various capital projects other than roads and bridges.

Fairmount Park Gets Approval For Illinois Sports Betting License

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Fairmount Park’s applications for an Illinois sports betting license was approved 4-0 by the Illinois Gaming Board during a special meeting held on Thursday morning. During the meeting, Fairmount Park was also given “preliminary suitable” status to accept casino games.

With its approval, Fairmount Park becomes the 9th applicant granted a Master Sports Wagering License by the Illinois Gaming Board since June. The approved license is valid for four years. Fairmount Park’s sports betting provider will be FanDuel and it applied for the license as FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing.

First Sportsbook at Multiple Retail Venues

FanDuel has been live in Lincoln State since since August 28th when it launched its sports betting app through a partnership with Boyd Gaming’s Par-A-Dice-Casino in East Peoria. That consortium started accepting legal Illinois sports betting transactions last September 10th.

But while FanDuel is the first Illinois sports betting company to operate in multiple venues, it won’t be the last. PointsBet, who has a partnership with Hawthorne Race Course, is planning to open three Chicago suburban off-track betting sites in the near future while DraftKings, a partner of Casino Queen, is expected to open a sportsbook at Wrigley Field in partnership with the Chicago Cubs.

Gaming Expansion Bill

Horse racing tracks were allowed to apply for casino and sports betting licenses as part of the gaming expansion bill signed into a law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June 2019. FanDuel had been in talks with Fairmount as early as February as a workaround to the 18-month waiting period from the issuance of the first sports betting license to when the Illinois Gaming Board can accept an online-only application.

With its approval, Fairmount Park thus joins Hawthorne Race Course as the only race tracks in the state permitted to conduct sports betting activities and given “preliminary suitable” status to add casino games. Arlington International Racecourse, the third race track in the state, did not apply for an Illinois sports betting or a racino license.

If its Racino application is approved, Fairmount Park stands to offer up to 900 gaming positions at slot machines and table games. The total cost of the expansion has been estimated at $50M. There is no timetable yet for the expansion as it is dependent on how fast the approval process goes.