DraftKings Secures Early Illinois Sports Betting Entry with Casino Queen Alliance

DraftKings has landed a market access deal with Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Illinois that will enable the online sports betting operator to enter the state’s newly opened wagering market.

The recent partnership with the land-based casino comes as a way around state law that was designed and adopted to keep DraftKings and its rival FanDuel from being able to operate in Illinois for another 18 months.

The market access deal was signed in early June, according to a recent SEC filing. Sportico first broke the story this past Tuesday.

The partnership is for 5-10 years and includes a sports betting app and a retail sportsbook at Casino Queen. The gambling venue will get an unspecified share of DraftKings’ net revenue.

DraftKings confirmed the deal Tuesday, saying that they “look forward to working with both the Illinois Gaming Board and Casino Queen to bring our legal sports betting product to Illinois.”

A company owned by DraftKings – Crown IL Gaming LLC – applied for a management services license for sports betting on April 28, according to a May update on the Illinois Gaming Board’s website.

Casino Queen was among the seven casinos that obtained four-year masters sports betting licenses in June.

When will DraftKings go live in Illinois?

DraftKings’ partnership with Casino Queen gave the sports betting operator a head start on its archrival FanDuel. The latter has too been looking for workarounds to Illinois law that would enable it to enter the state’s sports betting market immediately instead of having to wait for 18 months for an online-only license.

FanDuel has reportedly been in talks to acquire Fairmount Park in Collinsville, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

It is still unknown when exactly DraftKings plans to launch its sportsbook product in Illinois. According to recent reports, the company is undergoing a regulatory testing process and hopes to go live with digital sports betting within the next several weeks.

As mentioned earlier, the partnership between DraftKings and Casino Queen enables the betting operator to premier its platform much earlier than originally anticipated. The Illinois Legislature passed sports betting legislation last summer, but it included a so-called “penalty box” provision under which online-only operators would have to wait for 18 months after the state Gaming Board issues the first sports betting license in order to be able to operate in Illinois.

The provision was specifically designed to sanction DraftKings and FanDuel as both operators offered daily fantasy sports in Illinois for years. According to a 2015 opinion from state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the practice was illegal.

The Illinois Gaming Board issued the first sports betting licenses in June, which means that DraftKings and FanDuel would have been able to launch a standalone online-only product no earlier than late 2021. Under Illinois law, the state regulator will offer three online-only sports betting licenses, each at a colossal price of $20 million.

Illinois’ only operational online wagering platform, BetRivers, went live in June. State sports fans would have had to wait longer for the opportunity to place bets via desktop and mobile, but Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed last month an executive order that temporarily annulled a provision in the state betting law that required in-person registration for digital betting.

The order was prompted by the statewide closure of brick-and-mortar gambling venues in the face of the coronavirus. Gov. Pritzker confirmed last week that casinos and other non-essential businesses would be able to reopen July 1. Casinos will operate at 50% capacity.

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