New Jersey online casino giant GNOG comes to Illinois to offer sports betting

Does Golden Nugget’s Latest Deal Mean Illinois Online Casino Gaming Is On The Way?

Golden Nugget Online Gaming (GNOG) has secured market access for online sports betting and iGaming in Illinois. It’s a deal that paints an optimistic picture for the potential of online gambling legalization in the state.

The deal has Golden Nugget and casino development firm Wilmot Gaming forming a joint venture to build a new casino in the city of Danville.

The casino will operate under Golden Nugget’s brand and feature a Landry’s steakhouse.  

Crucially, the new property gives GNOG the exclusive right to offer IL online sports wagering on its license, as well as other forms of online gambling – such as IL online poker – should they be legalized.

The access deal will last for a minimum of 20 years. It requires GNOG to pay the joint venture a percentage of its online net gaming revenue. That includes a minimum revenue guarantee, so GNOG is banking on success.

Golden Nugget has big plans for IL

“We are thrilled to gain market access in Illinois, the fifth most populous US state and the largest to have regulated mobile wagering to date,” said Thomas Winter, president of GNOG.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to further increase our US footprint and deliver on our ambitious growth plans. We look forward to bringing our award-winning online offerings to the Prairie State.”

GNOG going public

The deal comes as GNOG is in the process of going public. A special-purpose acquisitions company, Lancadia Holdings II, will acquire the digital business from Landry’s.

What’s interesting about this deal is that sports betting isn’t big business for GNOG. The Golden Nugget license is the highest earning of all online casinos in New Jersey. At the same time, it’s among the smallest NJ sportsbook operators.

But that’s by design. Golden Nugget’s brand has high visibility in the retail casino space, and the casino users are worth much more than sports bettors. GNOG has claimed that its average customer is worth around $7,700 over five years, more than triple DraftKings‘ estimate.

As a result, GNOG has focused on states where online casino is legal. It’s only active in New Jersey at the moment but will be coming to Pennsylvania as a qualified gaming entity and to Michigan when that state finally launches online gambling.

In that context, the choice to plunge into the Illinois market suggests that GNOG is confident that online casino gaming will come to Illinois in the near future. Asked about it, Winter told OnlinePokerReport as much: 

“With the success of online gaming in NJ and PA, we are hopeful that IL, among many other casino states that have already regulated mobile sports betting, will see online gaming as the next logical step.”

Tides are shifting toward IL online gambling

The state has tried and failed twice before to pass online casino laws. But now there is quite probably enough political will to get a bill through. Rush Street Interactive is very influential in the state —Rush Street Gaming runs the Rivers Casino outside of Chicago — and has also enjoyed major success with online casino in other states.

Like GNOG, Rush Street will soon be going public via a special-purpose acquisition company. And shareholders will surely want to see its casinos operating online in as many markets as possible.

That could help clear some of the previous obstacles to IL online casino — particularly if Golden Nugget is lobbying too.

Illinois’ next legislative session will begin in January. Keep an eye out for an online gambling bill on the docket.

- Brad has been covering the online gambling industry in Europe and the US for more than four years, most recently as the news editor at EGR Global.
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