Circa Sportsbook Approved In Illinois, Here’s When We Expect It To Launch

Written By Dave Briggs on April 27, 2023
Circa Sportsbook

Circa Sportsbook is inching closer to being the eighth legal online sportsbook in Illinois. It has received approval for its license from the Illinois Gaming Board today.

Circa’s director of operations, Jeff Benson, conveyed to Play Illinois through email:

“We plan to launch both our physical and online stores later this year, tentatively in August.”

The American Place Casino, a Full House Resorts property in Waukegan, has linked Circa with The Temporary. This establishment opened on February 17.

At the regular board meeting of IGB, Circa transitioned from being an “applicant” to a “licensee.” However, it will still take several months before Circa is permitted to open.

Derek Stevens, the CEO of Circa, informed Play Illinois in January that Circa was prepared to launch when The Temporary began operations. However, such action is prohibited by the IGB.

Stevens stated, “The casino must first open, followed by a certain duration before they can introduce a sportsbook. In Illinois, a sportsbook must always open later than the casino.”

How Circa plans to compete with established Illinois sportsbooks

Circa, established four years ago, currently runs sportsbooks in Nevada, Colorado, and Iowa.

At present, the Illinois sports betting market, which is regulated by seven sportsbooks, is chiefly controlled by three operators: FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetRivers. According to an analysis by Play Illinois, these three operators constitute over 75% of the market.

Stevens stated that he is not worried about the quantity of competitors.

“Stevens said, “There are 30 competitors in Colorado, quite a few in Iowa, and obviously, a lot in Nevada.”

“I genuinely believe that sports betting is still in its early stages overall. All sportsbooks are unique; one model might be perfect for a certain customer profile, while another may be more suitable for a completely different type of customer. Therefore, I believe there’s significant scope to further expand the market. The Illinois market has so far proven to be extremely strong. We’re looking forward to making our mark there.”

Circa Sports CEO Derek Stevens
Circa Sports CEO Derek Stevens

Stevens stated that when Circa, the sportsbook he founded in Las Vegas in 2019, launches in Illinois, it will provide a unique selling proposition to attract high rollers. Specifically, Circa pledges to hold a lower percentage while also accepting sizeable bets.

“Though the number of players we have might slightly deviate, I believe that a low-hold model accepting larger bets could be a fitting model for certain customers,” said Stevens.

I believe everyone will be interested in exploring different betting lines and this will be evident with Circa Sports. When people see some of our future bets, they will grasp the concept of the low-hold model. This will be a crucial aspect of our focus for Illinois.

Circa sees opportunity in Illinois sports betting sector

Betting on sports is a major industry in Illinois.

In February, Illinois officially exceeded $20 billion in total sports betting handle, placing it third in the US behind only New Jersey and Nevada. The Land of Lincoln now holds this ranking for lifetime sports betting handle.

In February, Illinois generated a handle of $875.4 million, making it the second highest in the United States. It ranked behind New York, which produced $1.47 billion, but ahead of New Jersey with $847.4 million, Nevada with $659.4 million, and Ohio with $639.8 million.

Before February, Illinois had a four-month run, each month recording over $1 billion in handle. This achievement made Illinois the fourth state, after New York, New Jersey and Nevada, to report a billion-dollar handle for four consecutive months.

“Without a doubt, we believe Illinois is a major player in the sports market,” stated Stevens. “The passion for the numerous teams based in Illinois is undeniable. Considering the regulatory environment, the population base, and the predominance of sports fans in the Midwest, we believe it all converges perfectly here.”

Stevens stated that the launch in Illinois was simply a situation where “everything fell into place for us.”

“We believed that the regulatory environment in Illinois was compatible with our business model. We successfully negotiated a deal with Full House Resorts and were thrilled to establish a new build in Northern Illinois. This aligned well with our plans,” he stated.

Circa has big plans for permanent sportsbook in Waukegan

Stevens stated that the Circa sportsbook will be housed in The Temporary casino for a period of two to three years while the construction of the permanent casino is underway. He expressed Circa’s enthusiasm about having a say in the design of the retail sportsbook.

Indeed, Circa operates numerous luxurious sportsbooks, with Stadium Swim in Vegas being the most well-known. It features six massive swimming pools and a 40-foot tall high-definition screen, creating a unique environment for viewing and wagering on sports.

For obvious reasons, Illinois won’t be getting an outdoor, swim-up sportsbook.

Photo by courtesy Circa Sportsbook
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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a writer and managing editor at Catena Media, specializing in the North American gambling industry. His focus areas include the casino, sports betting, horse racing, and poker sectors. Currently, he is reporting on the gaming industries in Illinois and Canada.

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