Illinois sports gambling not ready for Super Bowl weekend, leaving betters on the sidelines

We're heading into the biggest sports betting weekend of the year, but Illinois casino operators can only watch and wait from the sidelines for the state to approve licenses.

The gaming board has received three applications so far, but approval for sports betting could still take weeks.

With the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers gearing up for Sunday's Super Bowl matchup, you can bet the lines will be long at Indiana casinos -- the closest place for Chicagoans to go if they want to take advantage of legalized sports betting.

Casinos in Illinois, like Rivers in Des Plaines, are stuck on the sidelines like the backup to a superstar quarterback.

"Well, we want to have our physical space ready as soon as possible, so we opened our sports bar in mid-December and we are working diligently now to open as soon as possible a new sports book operation," said Corey Wise, GM at Rivers Casino Des Plaines.

Cameras are not allowed in casinos in Illinois, but renderings of the Rivers facility give a glimpse of what's to come.

"I would've liked the football though. I would've like to bet on the football, but it's too late for that obviously," said Ron Varallo, as he headed into the casino.

The Illinois Gaming Board is now working as quickly as possible to vet the applications it received last week from Rivers and two other casinos.

"I think the Illinois Gaming Board is trying to get it right, and they're doing their due diligence and want to ensure the integrity of gaming in Illinois," Wise said.
In the meantime, sports betting continues to be big business in Indiana.

RELATED: Indiana casinos open their books as sports betting officially becomes legal

Since it launched on September 1, casinos in the Hoosier State saw people lay down $161.8 million in bets on sporting events. The state has generated $1.1 million in revenue from those bets.

Now the hopes for sports betting in Illinois is shifting to March Madness, if the gaming industry is lucky.

"I have a couple of favorite teams I wouldn't mind betting on," said Jeremy Price.

"We are hopeful to be open as soon as we can, but I can't right now commit that will be open by then," Wise said.

Wise added that they are doing everything they can on their end so that when their license gets approved by the state they can launch sports betting shortly thereafter. In keeping their hopes high, Rivers Casino will hold a job fair February 11 to get the people they will need hired.
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