Illinois Kicks Off Sports Betting; Eddie Olczyk Places First Wager At Rivers Casino Sportsbook

Monday 9th March 2020

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Legal sports betting is now underway in Illinois, after Rivers Casino in Des Plaines opened the state's first sportsbook on Monday.

Chicago Blackhawks announcer Eddie Olczyk placed the first official wager, putting down $100 on the White Sox to win the American League pennant at 16-to-1 odds.

Olczyk, a colon cancer survivor, said if he wins that bet, all the money will go to colon cancer research at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

At least five other casinos and one racetrack in the state have applied to open sportsbooks in the eight months since Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation to allow sports gambling in Illinois. The governor's office has estimated the state will collect up to $102 million a year in revenue from sports wagering taxes, which will be used to fund the state's capital construction program.

"The governor and the [Illinois General Assembly] saw an opportunity to take an underground market, and make it legal, regulated, and produce taxes and jobs. People have been betting on sports since the first time somebody threw a ball into a field. We've all participated in office pools and other major sporting events, like March Madness, and we're now getting a chance to bet here in the state," said Neil Bluhm, co-founder and chairman of Rush Street Gaming, the parent company of Rivers Casino.

In addition to casinos and racetracks, sports stadiums in Illinois also are allowed to apply for sports wagering licenses. Online sports wagering also eventually will be allowed, although it's unclear when the first betting apps will be approved.

Sports betting is just one part of a massive expansion of gambling in Illinois approved by the governor and state lawmakers last year to help fund a $45 billion infrastructure plan, involving the construction of new roads, bridges, school and university facilities, broadband internet systems, hospitals, affordable housing, and more.

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