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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 restaurant steakhouse.
Crucially, the new property gives GNOG the exclusive right to offer online sports wagering on its license, as well as other forms of online gambling, 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.
“We are thrilled to gain market access in Illinois, the 5th 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.”
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 in 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.”
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.
Illinois’ next legislative session will begin in January. Keep an eye out for an online gambling bill on the docket.