Rivers Casino in Des Plaines on Thursday became the first gambling house in the state to offer legal sports betting online and with mobile devices.
Illinois' most lucrative casino launched the service Thursday, as professional leagues sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic slowly begin to return, providing sports fans something to bet on.
"We are excited to make history in bringing the first online sportsbook to sports fans in our home state just in time as American sports are coming back into action," said Richard Schwartz, president of Rush Street Interactive, which is partnering with the casino in running the online sportsbook.
Under the state's massive gambling expansion law approved a year ago, prospective bettors first would have been required to visit a sportsbook within a casino, horse racetrack or stadium to sign up for an online wagering account.
But Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order two weeks ago temporarily removing the in-person registration requirement in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and his subsequent shutdown of all state casinos. That will allow promised revenues from sports bets -- $100 million a year, by one estimate -- to start flowing.
The state law also allows Illinois' bricks-and-mortar betting houses to get a leg up on online-only sportsbooks like FanDuel and DraftKings, which have to wait 18 months before they can enter the state's sports betting market.
Rivers was among seven casinos that received master sports wagering licenses from the Illinois Gaming Board a week ago. Under a temporary license, Rivers was the first in the state to open its sportsbook in March, until all casinos were ordered closed less than a week later at the onset of the pandemic.
Rivers' online sportsbook, BetRivers.com, requires users to be physically located within state borders and be at least 21 years old to wager. In addition to betting on regular computer desktops, Android phone users can go to the website to download a new app that is specific to Illinois. A similar app for Apple users is expected to launch soon. For now, officials say iPhone owners can still bet via web browsers.
"While entertainment options are limited as we seek to minimize the spread of the virus, we are focused on BetRivers.com providing sportsbook players with a high-quality online product with exciting sports betting options," Schwartz said in an announcement. "We will have great customer service with fast payouts and an overall friendly approach that treats every player with honesty and care."