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Illinois Lands On Betway For First Online-Only Sports Betting License

Written By Derek Helling | Updated:
hand pointing to cell phone bearing illinois outline and betway logo

Sometimes a second look at a potential partner after some time apart reveals some positive aspects that were previously overlooked. That’s the situation the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) and online gambling company Betway are in after a Thursday announcement.

Betway had previously flirted with acquiring an online-only sportsbook license in Illinois but chilled on that relationship for a while. It seems the magic is back in the partnership, though.

Illinois Gaming Board selects Betway for sports betting license

During the IGB’s Thursday morning meeting, Administrator Marcus Fruchter explained the process the board followed to land on Betway as a recipient of a special class of license to offer online sports betting in the state.

Illinois’ 2019 law allows the IGB to award up to three such licenses. This class of license does not require the recipient to partner with a land-based gaming facility like a casino, off-track betting parlor or racetrack in Illinois. For that reason, Betway won’t have to share its revenue with such a partner.

At the same time, this class of licensee cannot accept in-person wagers in Illinois. These licensees’ businesses are confined to online bets. The cost of the license is also far higher, coming in at $20 million. This round of consideration for such a license began in November 2022.

After the IGB closed the application period on March 1, 2023, it had received two applications. The IGB chose Betway while not naming the other applicant. While it’s possible that the IGB may open up another application period to award another license of this class, that is not certain right now.

The narrative of how Betway eventually came to be the newest Illinois sports betting licensee is interesting. Betway is not alone in having plans to get in on the Illinois sports betting game.

Betway changed its mind, then changed it back

Betway was one of four original applicants for one of these licenses when the IGB first initiated the bidding process in 2021. However, it withdrew its application shortly after submission. Betway provided no explanation for that move at the time.

When the latest round opened, it stepped back into the fray and now has emerged the winner. This license puts Betway in another of the biggest markets for online sports betting in the US. Its existing eight operational states already include New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It also offers online casino games in both of those states.

That could be a reason behind Betway’s change of heart. Illinois’ legislature flirted with legalizing real-money online casino apps earlier this year but ultimately scorned the proposal. Having a presence in the state could prove beneficial for Betway if progress on that front occurs.

Regardless of whether that happens, Betway isn’t the only brand that Illinoisans can look forward to in the near future. The IGB also approved a master sports betting license for the Hard Rock Casino in Rockford on Thursday. That means Hard Rock Sportsbook can start taking bets in Illinois as soon as it passes regulatory inspections.

Looking further out, there are three other brands which should eventually make their Illinois sports betting debuts at some point. Those are:

Betway joins a competitive market but one with great potential if Illinois ever legalizes online casino gaming. If that happens, the $20 million price tag for this license might prove a prudent investment and show that Illinois was worth a second try.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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