To operate exclusively through Casino Queen for retail and/or online

DraftKings pens a market-access deal with Illinois casino for sports betting

Casino Queen was one of seven Illinois casinos recently given a master license by the Illinois Gaming Board.
United States
Reading time 1:49 min
Casino Queen was one of seven Illinois casinos recently given a master license by the state's Gaming Board. The expanded gaming bill Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last year allows the regulator to wait 18 months before assigning three online-only licenses to outsider operators.

DraftKings has a market-access deal with Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Illinois, according to a recent SEC filing.

The newly public company will operate Casino Queen’s mobile and retail betting, in exchange for an undisclosed percent of net gaming revenue, according to the filing. The partnership, one of seven with casinos across the country, is in the 5-10 year range.

DraftKings confirmed the deal in an emailed statement to Sportico, which first reported the story. “We look forward to working with both the Illinois Gaming Board and Casino Queen to bring our legal sports betting product to Illinois,” the company said. Market-access deals allow a gambling operator to gain the right to operate within a specific jurisdiction by partnering with an already licensed party. 

Illinois is the sixth largest state in the U.S. by population, with teams in all five major leagues. The state could eventually hit $1 billion in annual sports betting revenue, according to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.

Illinois, which went live in March, planned to eventually sell three online-only licenses to outsider operators at a steep price of $20 million. Had DraftKings chosen to go that route, the expanded gaming bill Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last June allows the gaming board to wait 540 days – or 18 months – before assigning those licenses

The Illinois Gaming Board then has another 90 days to select three operators to be awarded online-only licenses. The delay gives bricks-and-mortar operators with mobile/online offerings at least a 21-month head start. That 540-day clock started June 11 when the Illinois Gaming Board granted seven Master Sports Wagering licenses, including one to Casino Queen.

Last June DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said on Twitter: “While it is good to see sports betting bills passed, excluding DraftKings and FanDuel is like passing a ride sharing bill that excludes Uber and Lyft,” he said. “Very disappointing that Illinois customers will not have the best options available to them for 18 months.”

Those seven licenses were granted one week after Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-41, suspending the in-person registration requirment for mobile sports wagering, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the closure of casinos in the state. Patrons are no longer required to appear in person to register for sports wagering accounts and may do so online.

Following Pritzker’s order, Rivers Casino, which was the first to accept legal sports bets in Illinois in March, was also the first to market for online betting via BetRivers earlier this month.

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