Casinos put workers on the books in race to launch Illinois sports betting

Soon-to-be sportsbooks are beefing up staff as the newly legal industry inches toward launch.

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First-round applicants wait outside a Rivers Casino office for new sports betting jobs on Tuesday.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Without whipping out a cellphone, what’s 185 multiplied by 3?

How much cash will a gambler collect at the window on a winning $200 bet with +112 odds?

Know what team Anthony Davis plays for — or what he even plays? 

If you chalked up 555, tabbed the lucky bettor’s total payout at $424 and know the Chicago-born NBA superstar has taken his talents to the L.A. Lakers, you just might be able to get a foot in the door of Illinois’ nascent sports betting industry. 

Dozens of job seekers were each given a pen, paper and five minutes to answer those questions and more during the first stage of a job fair Tuesday at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, as the state’s highest-grossing gaming operation races to bolster its staff and launch one of the state’s first sportsbooks under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s massive gambling expansion. 

Rivers is one of three casinos issued temporary sports betting operating permits last month by the Illinois Gaming Board, allowing them to get their books in order before they are awarded their official licenses to start taking bets on sporting events.

The Des Plaines casino, which has already built its soon-to-be sportsbook off Rivers’ main gaming floor, was aiming to hire about 20 people on the spot at its job fair. About half those positions will be full-time and half part-time, with full benefits offered, according to Rivers general manager Corey Wise. 

First off the board was Jose Enriquez, a 24-year-old who previously worked at the Grand Victoria Casino in his hometown of Elgin. He was among the first in line outside a Rivers office to interview Tuesday morning, and he was the first to land a sportsbook job. 


Rivers Casino general manager Corey Wise shakes Jose Enriquez’s hand after offering him a sportsbook job Tuesday.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“I love sports, I love numbers, and I’m good at customer service, so why not put that together?” said Enriquez, who used to work security at Wrigley Field and is now also working toward a criminal justice degree at Elgin Community College. 

The national median annual wages for sportsbook workers was $24,430 in 2018, the first year sports betting launched outside Las Vegas thanks to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, federal labor statistics show. 

The Grand Victoria is also prepping its own sportsbook operations, as is the Argosy Alton Casino, which is holding its own sportsbook job fair Wednesday. The Downstate riverboat has doubled down on launching by next month, advertising that they’ll be taking bets in time for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament that tips off March 17. 

Wise said Rivers’ launch date hasn’t been set, but he’s “hopeful” they’ll be taking March Madness bets. 

Those three casinos are the only sports betting applicants so far, but all 10 of Illinois’ existing casinos, plus its three horse racing tracks and up to seven large sports facilities — think Wrigley Field or the United Center — are eligible to apply for sportsbook licenses under the state’s new gambling law.

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