A much-rumored partnership between leading US sports betting company FanDuel Sportsbook and a racetrack with a strong retail position in the state of Illinois appears to be finally moving ahead.
The Illinois Gaming Board, which oversees the betting and i-gaming sector in the state, has decided that Fairmount Park, which is located in the St Louis area, would be suitable as a location for the award of a gaming license and has granted the track a license to accept sports wagers. According to reports, the track is likely to have a new name in order to promote the FanDuel brand. It will also transition to a racino, offering a complete selection of table and slots games, although that development will depend on whether it is awarded a casino license.
The news of the deal will be a significant boost for FanDuel and will help to establish a more level playing field with its main rivals, BetRivers and DraftKings Sportsbook.
There had been some speculation that the sportsbook might launch with the Par-A-Dice Casino rather than Fairmount, but geography played a big role. Fairmount is just east of St. Louis, which would be a strong location in the early months of the Illinois betting market, given the fact that in-person registration is required for the first 18 months after market launch.
By contrast, Par-A-Dice is near the middle of Illinois and based hours from the big markets of St Louis and Chicago. That calculation was, however, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the launch of sports betting in March, the state governor, JB Pritzker, temporarily suspended the requirement for in-person registration due to the fact that casinos had been closed.
The governor has given mixed signals on the suspension since the summer, but at the time of writing, it remains in place, and with the virus worsening across the US, it is likely that another extension may be around the corner.
Assuming that in-person registration does return at some point, however, it is possible that DraftKings Sportsbook may have a slight edge over FanDuel.
The DraftKings operation at Casino Queen is based just across the Illinois-Missouri border. That positioning means that sports betting fans would drive past on their way to the FanDuel Sportsbook at Fairmount, which is around a 15-minute drive from the border. In addition, DraftKings has also struck an important deal with the Chicago Cubs, enabling them to offer sports betting at Wrigley Field.
The competition to capture the biggest share of the Illinois market is likely to intensify over the next few months as the sector has shown impressive growth. The suspension of in-person registration, which has meant bettors can register online, has led to an impressive launch period. According to figures released so far, sportsbooks in Illinois recorded a handle of $139.8 million in August, a significant rise on the $52.5 million for July.
Sports betting in those two months was dominated by the BetRivers brand, which was the first online sportsbook to debut in Illinois and was in the ideal position to benefit from remote registration. That dominance is likely to come under threat when September’s figures are available as that month saw DraftKings and FanDuel both able to record a full month of operating, while William Hill and PointsBet both launched their operations.
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