DraftKings Seeks Earlier Entry in Illinois Through Sports Betting Partnership with Casino Queen

Posted on: July 1, 2020, 03:45h. 

Last updated on: July 1, 2020, 03:04h.

DraftKings has found its sports betting partner in Illinois. The Boston-based sports entertainment and gaming company announced it reached a multi-year agreement to operate a retail sportsbook and a mobile app for the Casino Queen in a filing submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) two weeks ago.

DraftKings Illinois
The Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Ill., has agreed to host a DraftKings retail sportsbook, according to an SEC filing by the Boston-based sports entertainment and gaming company. (Image: Belleville News-Democrat)

Terms of the agreement were not revealed in the SEC filing. But the partnership with the casino based in East St. Louis will be in place for at least five years and no more than 10 years, according to the document.

In a statement to Casino.org Tuesday, the company would only confirm the filing and provide no other details.

We look forward to working with both the Illinois Gaming Board and Casino Queen to bring our legal sports betting product to Illinois,” the company said.

Illinois approved its sports betting law last year and began issuing licenses earlier this year. Rush Street Gaming’s BetRivers became the first operational sportsbook in the state when it opened at the Rivers Des Plaines on March 9. That was a week before the coronavirus pandemic for the statewide closure of all casinos.

Wednesday marks the first day casinos can reopen. Both the Casino Queen and Rivers Des Plaines are among those planning to welcome back customers.

Casinos Get Running Start

Getting a deal with an Illinois casino, provided the IGB approves the licenses, is important for DraftKings, because, without it, the company would have been excluded from the market for 18 months. Language in the expanded gaming law allowed the state to award licenses to mobile-only operations, but the casinos were granted a head start.

The law was initially meant to keep DraftKings and rival FanDuel out for the start of sports betting because Illinois officials ruled the two companies conducted unlicensed fantasy sports games in the state.

By having a retail sportsbook in the Casino Queen, DraftKings would then be able to roll out its mobile application earlier. It’s a strategy similar to FanDuel’s, which has reportedly sought to purchase Fairmount Park. The racetrack is located about 10 miles east of the Casino Queen in the St. Louis market.

DraftKings applied for a sports betting Management Services Provider License on April 28.

The Casino Queen received its owner’s license on June 11. However, the board has yet to give the OK to start operating.

Currently, on the IGB website, the board is not scheduled to meet again until July 30.

Overcoming the In-Person Registration Hurdle

With 12.9 million people, Illinois is the fifth-largest state in the country, and it’s also the largest state to allow retail and mobile sports betting. Analysts expect that as the market matures, it will compete with Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania as the top market by handle.

DraftKings, along with FanDuel, has found success in the mobile sports betting market. The two rivals already make up more than half of the mobile betting that’s taking place in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. So it stands to reason the two would be in a position to dominate in Illinois.

However, there is one slight problem. The Illinois law requires in-person registration for mobile accounts, a provision that will likely sunset in December 2021.

If approved, DraftKings retail sportsbook would be in the St. Louis metropolitan area. While the market has about 3 million people and Missouri currently does not currently allow sports betting. The major market in Illinois is up in Chicago, which is home to about 10 million people.

It’s roughly a four-hour drive from Chicago to the St. Louis area, and Chicago has several casinos and race tracks in the area that will have mobile sports betting apps.

One thing that may help DraftKings get its foot in the Chicago market earlier is a current executive order by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker that waives in-person registration during the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. BetRivers.com used the order to roll out its online application two weeks ago.