DraftKings formalizes deal with Illinois casino; online betting imminent

There will be no 18-month wait in Illinois for the biggest mobile sportsbooks in the country after all, as DraftKings announced today it’s not-so-secret-deal with the Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Ill.

When the state legalized sports gambling, the state law prohibited online-only operators like DraftKings from launching for 18 months in what was called a required “penalty box” period.


The prospect of not launching until Dec. 2021 is now over, thanks to DraftKings and FanDuel, which is in talks to buy Fairmount Race Track, working around the rule.

The original rule was thought to allow land-based casinos like Rivers to get a jump, but it was also speculated as a penalty for the two sportsbooks for its daily fantasy operations within the state, which former state attorney general Lisa Madigan interpreted as illegal.


Terms of the deal, which renames the entire casino with the DraftKings name, were not disclosed, but it’s likely a pretty penny considering that retail sportsbooks in the state must pay a $20 million licensing fee and the move allows DraftKings to take bets much sooner than first anticipated.

While an exact date is not clear, it’s believed national mobile sportsbooks, including DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, Penn National Gaming/Barstool and William Hill, will be operating by the end of August. For perspective, BetRivers — which had a retail tie from the beginning — launched its mobile product in late June.

The prospect of doing business quickly in the state is better now that the governor has suspended in-person only registration due to COVID-19.

With 12.9 million people in the sports-rabid state, the fifth largest in the nation, analysts say the state could compete with Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the three most sports gambling heavy states, when the retail and mobile market reach maturity.

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