DraftKings Launches Retail, Mobile Sports Betting in Illinois, William Hill Opens Chicago-Area Sportsbook

Posted on: August 5, 2020, 11:03h. 

Last updated on: August 6, 2020, 10:11h.

On Wednesday, after much fanfare and anticipation, DraftKings became the fourth sports betting operator to go live in Illinois, as the sports gaming technology company opened a retail sportsbook at the DraftKings at Casino Queen in East St. Louis.

DraftKings Illinois
New signage went up last week to herald the branding for DraftKings at Casino Queen. The DraftKings sportsbook opened at the East St. Louis, Ill., casino on Wednesday. (Image: Commerce Color/Facebook)

DraftKings also became the second mobile sports betting app to launch in the state, joining BetRivers.com, which went online in June.

The launch of DraftKings in Illinois has had more than its fair share of intrigue. The Boston-based company reached a deal with the Casino Queen nearly two months ago, according to documents DraftKings submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

With the partnership, DraftKings was able to find a way to get into Illinois and avoid waiting until 2022 for a mobile-only license. However, representatives for BetRivers questioned the arrangement in a letter to the Illinois Gaming Board, noting that the expanded gaming law that allows sports betting prohibits the use of third-party brands.

That led to the Casino Queen rebranding itself to include the DraftKings name, which it did two weeks ago.

Missed Opportunity

DraftKings mobile launch comes less than two weeks after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) lifted an emergency order that waived the in-person registration mandate for a mobile sports betting account at the participating casino.

Pritzker initiated the order on June 4, as sports were returning during the COVID-19 crisis. But casinos remained closed in the state. BetRivers launched its online product two weeks later.

In late June, Pritzker extended the waiver for another 30 days. But he also allowed casinos to reopen at reduced capacity on July 1. That move enabled him to let the mobile registration order expire on June 26.

The move could be a costly one for DraftKings, potentially keeping it from being a bigger player in the state over the next 18 months or so. While the St. Louis market is significant, especially with sports betting still illegal in Missouri, the East St. Louis casino is about 300 miles from a Chicago market of nearly 10 million people. The in-person registration requirement will not go away until the state awards an online-only master license, and that will not happen until at least early 2022.

That means Chicago area residents who want to use the DraftKings app in Illinois must drive about nine hours round-trip to establish their mobile account. Currently, the only mobile app available in the Chicago area is BetRivers, which is operated out of the Rivers Casino Des Plaines.

Windy City William Hill

Besides BetRivers, DraftKings at Casino Queen joins Argosy Casino in Alton, near St. Louis, and the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, a Chicago suburb, as active sportsbooks in the state. The Grand Victoria celebrated the opening of its William Hill sportsbook on Sunday.

Adrienne Prather-Marcos, who heads public relations for William Hill, confirmed to Casino.org the company received its temporary sports betting license from the IGB last Friday.

William Hill does plan to launch a mobile app in the state. Prather-Marcos said there’s no official timeline for that to occur.