PointsBet Poised To Enter Illinois With Hawthorne Approval

PointsBet Poised To Enter Illinois With Hawthorne Approval
© USA Today

The Illinois Gaming Board on Thursday approved a master sports wagering license for Hawthorne Race Course, which will allow PointsBet entry into the emerging mobile market in the state.

Currently only online sportsbook betrivers.com is operating in Illinois. BetRivers went live in Illinois on June 18 through Rush Street Interactive’s Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, a suburb of Chicago.

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With Thursday’s unanimous approval of Hawthorne’s master license, PointsBet — its sports betting partner — should soon offer a second option for Illinois sports bettors. PointsBet, DraftKings and FanDuel received temporary operating licenses from the gaming board two weeks ago.

“The PointsBet team is thrilled to hear the good news that our partners at Hawthorne Race Course today received a 4-year master sports wagering license,” PointsBet USA CEO Johnny Aitken said in an email Thursday. “Together we will soon unveil our market-leading retail and mobile product for sports fans in the great state of Illinois, providing the premium sports betting experience they've so anxiously been waiting for.“

PointsBet did not offer a definitive timetable for launching in Illinois. PointsBet in early July signed the first sports betting deal with an MLB team, the Detroit Tigers.

Tim Carey, the president/CEO of Hawthorne and the fourth generation of his family to lead the track, said it was a “monumental moment” for the track to become a casino.

He said during the 90-minute livestreamed meeting that having a gaming license would be a privilege. “A lot of people are depending on us to get this right and we will not let them down,” Carey said before the track received approval from the board.

Location Helps Hawthorne, PointsBet

Hawthorne is located just 10 miles from Chicago which should be attractive to sports bettors who again have to register in-person at casinos, which reopened July 1. Gov. JB Pritzker did not extend his executive order last week that suspended the in-person requirement because of the coronavirus.

Pritzker’s order expired Sunday. Rivers Casino is about 16 miles outside of Chicago. DraftKings at Casino Queen, which was recently rebranded, is about 300 miles from Chicago, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. FanDuel does not yet have a partner to enter the market.

Carey even noted in his presentation that Hawthorne is “fortunate to be located where we are” in relation to Chicago.

The Illinois sports betting market is potentially one of the strongest in the country because of the population of Chicago and the city’s rabid sports fans. Reinstating the in-person requirement is a step back for the market. The gaming board did not address it during the meeting Thursday.

Branding Rules Made Permanent

The gaming board in late April posted rules that would allow co-branding for online sports betting. According to the gaming board website, an emergency rule is an adopted rule that becomes immediately effective upon first filing with the secretary of state and automatically expires after 150 days.

On Thursday the board made the rules permanent and will submit them to the secretary of state.

DraftKings’ recent rebranding of the Casino Queen will allow the sports betting operator to bypass the state’s required 18-month waiting period. But the lack of online registration will hurt.

The state law signed by Pritzker last year included the waiting period for online-only operators to begin taking bets. It did allow for operators to become affiliated directly with a casino, track or stadium/arena in the state to avoid that so-called “penalty box.”