Illinois casinos remain closed, but local sports fans are finally able to bet on games again.
On Thursday, Rivers Casino Des Plaines took the state’s first legal sports betting app live under the BetRivers banner.
Launch makes Illinois the 11th state with regulated online sports betting and the fifth in which Rush Street Interactive competes. It also makes Chicago the largest US city with open access to the sports gambling marketplace.
“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 on-line product with exciting sports betting options,” said company president Richard Schwartz.
Rivers was also the first Illinois casino to receive regulatory permission to open its retail sportsbook. It did so on March 9 before closing almost immediately due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Until now, those few days represented the only window of legal sports betting in the state’s history.
That timing was unfortunate in many ways. The other side of the coin, though, is that BetRivers will now enjoy a huge (but temporary) advantage thanks to an executive order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The IL sports betting law requires in-person registration for the first 18 months of operation, the result of a lobbying initiative Rush Street itself spearheaded. Illinois remains one of the few states without a timeline for casino reopenings, however, making such a process impossible for now.
The governor’s order facilitated an expedited online launch by waiving that in-person restriction while the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamations remain in effect.
Despite being a relative newcomer, Rush Street is quickly becoming a key player in US sports betting.
Its stronghold is Pennsylvania, where a pair of Rivers properties serve their respective Pittsburgh and Philadelphia markets. Between those and a corresponding pair of apps, Rush Street is the third-largest PA sports betting operator behind FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook.
The company also offers online sports betting in New Jersey under the outgoing SugarHouse brand, as well as retail sports betting under its own casino license in New York.
Rush Street has more recently expanded its online footprint into Indiana and Colorado too, giving it a presence in a total of six states in one form or another.