CHICAGO – The “situationship” between the Digital Gaming Corp. (DGC) and the premise of operating an online sportsbook in Illinois is typical of any “reality” television show. About three months after sort of making it official, DGC has called it off again.
At the same time, Illinois’ gambling industry took its relationship with the Golden Nugget Danville casino to the next level. Also, Bally’s Chicago secured more time to woo patrons at its temporary location.
Betway quietly withdraws from Illinois online sports betting again
This time, the end of the relationship between Illinois and the DGC’s Betway online gambling product might be for real. In July, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) announced that the DGC was the lone qualified bidder after a new round of consideration for an online-only sports betting license.
That was welcome news for the state at the time. A 2019 law allowed the IGB to award up to three such licenses. The upside of an online-only license is that the licensee does not have to share revenue with a land-based partner in Illinois.
However, the licenses’ $20 million price tag has proved to be an issue, as has the challenge of late entry into the market.
Most online sportsbooks have chosen alternate routes into Illinois. Those have included simply buying a casino or racetrack in the cases of DraftKings and FanDuel, respectively. Others, like Circa Sportsbook and PointsBet, a Fanatics Experience, have partnered with casinos or tracks.
In the cases of BetRivers and the forthcoming Hard Rock Bet, those brands are endemic to existing casinos in Illinois.
Interest has been minimal in the online-only licenses. In the supplemental round of bidding, the DGC was one of just two parties to survive an initial evaluation. That licensing process was cut short on Thursday as the IGB announced that the DGC had withdrawn its application.
IGB administrator Marcus Fruchter shared no details about why the DGC withdrew its application. At this time, the DGC has provided no comment. This is the second time the DGC has broken up with Illinois sports betting.
During the first round of bidding in 2021, the DGC also withdrew its license application. It’s unclear whether the IGB will conduct a second supplemental bidding process for the online-only licenses.
Right now, gaming regulators in Illinois have plenty of dates to consider for developing retail casinos around the state.
Bally’s Chicago, Golden Nugget Danville casinos get good news
While the DGC is on the outs with Illinois gambling, two casino operators got roses on Thursday. The IGB voted to grant a permanent license to Golden Nugget Danville, which has been operating since late May.
However, the casino didn’t have its grand opening until August as it worked through issues with regulators that limited its hours.
At the same time, Bally’s Chicago received more time to operate in its current location. Before Thursday’s meeting, Bally’s license required it to open its permanent facility at the Tribune Freedom Center by September 2025.
On Thursday, the IGB granted a 12-month extension on that requirement. Speaking at the meeting, Bally’s Chicago general manager Mark Wong stated that the casino will likely need all of the time to prepare its permanent location.
As Bally’s opened at its temporary location on Sept. 9, that means Bally’s could operate at the Medinah Temple for as much as three years. Bally’s hopes for a long romance with Illinoisans at both locations.
When it comes to the online-only sports betting license, though, it’s unclear if Illinois will ever be able to work out those issues.