DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- Sports gambling got off to a quick start in Indiana, just in time for the start of the NFL football season and drawing business away from Illinois gamblers who make the short drive across the state border.
But the Illinois Gaming Board is moving to try to catch up by opening the application process for sports gambling on Thursday.
"While we respect our Hoosier neighbors, Illinois is a different state and we have to do what's in the best interests of Illinois," said Marcus Fruchter, administrator for the Illinois Gaming Board.
A number of potential venues are ready and waiting for the go-ahead from the state. Rivers Casino in Des Plaines is the busiest casino in the state, and they have already done renovations putting a sports bar where a nightclub used to be. It includes a 48-foot video wall - but no sports gambling yet.
"We knew the rules were coming, just didn't know when," said Corey Wise, general manager of Rivers Casino. "So we wanted to be primed and ready once the rules are released."
The Illinois Gaming Board said the sports gambling application process is phase one. They expect to unveil rules to make sports gambling operational in phase two early next year. Some operators are hopeful that can be done in time for two of the biggest sports gambling events: the Super Bowl in February and the NCAA mens' basketball tournament.
The gaming board is making no promises, however. They say they are more committed to getting it right.
"I'm aware of the sports calendar, yes," Fruchter said. "The important part for us is to make sure we follow a deliberate process that preserves the integrity of gaming."
The gaming board said they have studied sports gambling in other states. Some experts predict Illinois could eventually rival Las Vegas and New Jersey for sports gambling.
A spokesperson for the gaming board said they are in the process of drafting the operational rules right now.