Rivers Casino sportsbook will take state's first legal sports bet on Monday

Friday 6th March 2020

The BetRivers Sportsbook at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines will open for business Monday, becoming the first sportsbook in Illinois to accept a legal bet, officials announced.

BetRivers will open at noon, following a 10 a.m. ceremony at the casino, 3000 S. River Road.

Chicago Blackhawks TV analyst Eddie Olczyk is slated to make the first sports bet, casino spokesman Patrick Skarr said.

Gamblers at Rivers will be able to place bets on American professional and collegiate sporting events, as well as some international athletic contests, Skarr said.

Under the terms of the state law, betting on some Illinois collegiate teams will be restricted. Gambling on horse racing won't be allowed at Illinois sportsbooks, either.

The Rivers sportsbook's opening comes in time for the college basketball tournament season -- a popular event for sports bettors. Conference tournaments are underway now and the NCAA tournament begins March 17.

The BetRivers Sportsbook features a 4,840-square-foot sports bar with a 47-foot-wide video wall. There will be five betting windows and 30 kiosks.

Televisions will be found throughout the lounge, too, and a full-service bar will serve patrons.

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BetRivers will launch the BetRivers.com site and mobile app later this year.

"We're excited to add this top-flight amenity to what is already a premier destination," said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Inc., the company that co-owns Rivers.

Sports gambling was legalized last June when Illinois lawmakers approved the gambling expansion bill, which included new casinos, sports betting and other additions.

Under that bill, casinos, race tracks and sports facilities that seat more than 17,000 people -- such as Wrigley Field or United Center -- would also be eligible to buy sports betting licenses under the bill, making Illinois one of about a dozen states to legalize the practice after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed it.

Revenues raised from the new casinos, the selling of sports betting licenses, and a higher tax on video gambling machines would go toward funding the vertical components of a long-term capital infrastructure plan, such as state building renovations. Sports betting licenses would range from $3.2 million to $20 million and be offered to brick-and-mortar facilities and to online operators, with taxes of 15%.

Six casinos in Illinois have applied for sports betting licenses.

In the Chicago area, a sportsbook is under construction at Hollywood Casino Aurora, but an opening date hasn't been announced, an employee said Friday.

The Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin has been granted a temporary sports betting permit. A representative couldn't be reached Friday to discuss plans.

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