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More Illinois casinos line up for sports betting licenses with industry launch looming

So far, six casinos and a racetrack have applied for licenses as state regulators prepare to roll out the new industry.

The Hollywood Casino Aurora, pictured in 2005.
Sun-Times file

Three more Illinois casinos and a downstate racetrack have applied for sports betting licenses, bringing the number of would-be sportsbooks to a lucky seven as the newly legal industry appears poised to launch across the state in the weeks ahead.

The Hollywood Casino locations in Aurora and Joliet, as well as the Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino in East Peoria, were each granted temporary sports betting licenses by the Illinois Gaming Board Thursday, according to the regulatory agency.

They join Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin and the Argosy Casino Alton, which received the temporary licenses last month, allowing them to get their operations in order before they get the official green light to start laying odds on sports contests.

The owners of the Fairmount Park racetrack in Collinsville also applied for a license last week but haven’t yet gotten their temporary permit.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who legalized sports betting as part of a sprawling gambling expansion signed into law last summer, said earlier this month he expects the industry to be out of the starting gate in time for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the glut of gambling it attracts.

So far, the Alton gambling mecca, about 25 miles north of St. Louis, is the only applicant that has advertised a March Madness launch. Rivers Casino executives have said they’re “hopeful” they’ll be up and running by the time the tourney kicks off March 17.

Bets on Illinois collegiate teams are off-limits, though. That’s prohibited under the new gaming law.

All 10 of the state’s existing casinos are eligible to apply to open sportsbooks, as are the three horse racing tracks and up to seven large sports venues like the United Center.

Those brick-and-mortar books will be able set up mobile betting applications – which have powered Indiana to a handle of more than $500 million since that state launched sports betting launch in September. But online-only betting operations like DraftKings and FanDuel won’t be able to apply for licenses for more than a year under Illinois’ new law.