Circa CEO Derek Stevens: We’re Ready To Launch In Illinois

Written By Dave Briggs on January 5, 2023Last Updated on January 6, 2023
Circa sportsbook, which promotes taking large bets with lower hold, is waiting on regulatory approval to launch in Illinois.

Illinois sports bettors anxious to see what the Circa Sportsbook has to offer are going to have to wait just a little longer.

Yes, Circa will soon become the state’s eighth sportsbook operator. But how soon is in the hands of the Illinois Gaming Board.

Circa CEO Derek Stevens told Play Illinois on Thursday that Circa is technically ready to launch as soon as The Temporary by American Place Casino in Waukegan opens its doors. Except, that’s not how the regulatory process works in Illinois.

“The casino has to open and then there’s a period of time where the casino is open before they have the ability to bring a sportsbook in,” Stevens said. “A sportsbook in Illinois must open at a later date than the casino.”

Further, The Temporary has yet to announce an official opening date. Though, that is expected to come this month.

Originally, the Full House Resorts owned temporary casino was to open in October and then December. It is believed Full House is just waiting on IGB approval to announce the date of its grand opening.

Circa Sports CEO Derek Stevens
Circa Sports CEO Derek Stevens

Circa promises low hold, high limits to Illinois sports bettors

When Circa does launch in Illinois, Stevens said the sportsbook he founded in 2019 in Las Vegas will offer a unique selling proposition aimed at appealing to high rollers. Namely, Circa promises a lower percentage hold while also welcoming large bets.

“The quantity of players is maybe a little bit different for us, but I think a low-hold model that takes larger wagers is a model that suits some customers,” Stevens said.

“I think everybody’s going to want to shop lines, and I think you’re going to see that with Circa Sports, people are going to understand the low-hold model when they see some of our futures. That’s going to be a key component of what we’re focused on for Illinois.”

Why did Circa choose Illinois?

Circa currently operates sportsbooks in Nevada, Colorado and Iowa. Why did Illinois appeal as the fourth state where Circa will do business? Stevens said it was simply a case where “all the stars lined up for us” in Illinois.

“We thought the regulatory environment in Illinois matched up with our model. We were able to work a deal out with Full House Resorts and we were excited to have a new build in in Northern Illinois. So that kind of matched up a bit with what we wanted to do,” he said.

“The Temporary in Waukegan will be a two-to-three-year temporary location. And then we’re excited about working with the Full House team about designing a permanent sportsbook inside the The American Place [permanent casino]. So, having some design input on the permanent, as well as the temporary is pretty exciting to us.”

After all, Circa does operate several lavish sportsbooks, the best known being the Stadium Swim in Vegas that combines six huge swimming pools with a 40-foot tall high definition screen for watching and betting on sports. Though, an outdoor, swim-up sportsbook won’t be coming to Illinois for obvious reasons.

Circa Stadium Swim in Las Vegas
Circa Stadium Swim in Las Vegas

How Circa plans to compete against existing Illinois sportsbooks

Illinois is already home to seven well-established sportsbooks. While Circa will launch in an already crowded market, Stevens said he’s not concerned about the number of competitors.

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

“I really think sports betting, in general, is still in its infancy. Sportsbooks, they’re all different. One sportsbook model may be great for a certain type of customer and another model might be better for a very different kind of customer. So, I think there’s a lot of room to continue to grow the market and Illinois so far has been very, very robust. We’re excited about showing up.”

Depending on what metric you use, Illinois is the second or third biggest sports betting market in the United States. Through October, which are the most recent statistics available from the IGB, Illinois ranks third in handle (nearly $7.7 billion, year-to-date through the first 10 months) and second in sports betting revenue (nearly $628 million).

“We definitely think that Illinois is a great sports market,” Stevens said. “You know the passion they have for so many of the teams based in Illinois. We think that based upon the regulatory environment, the population base, and the Midwest component of sports fans; we think it really comes together.”

Strong growth for Circa in just four years

Asked what might be coming after Illinois for Circa, Stevens preferred to focus on recent success stories for the four-year-old company.

“We opened our sixth location in Nevada in 2022. That was pretty exciting because it was the first time we went into northern Nevada. It’s the Reno Sparks in the San Francisco and Bay Area, a tourist destination… It really helped grow our Nevada business.

“And we’re excited about getting into year two in Iowa, year three in Colorado and this year opening in Illinois. The general goal is we want to grow Circa Sports in various jurisdictions throughout the country based upon the regulatory situation. So, for us, this is a good next step. We are looking forward to growing in the three states that we’re in and opening in Illinois as our fourth state.”

Photo by Ryan Gobuty / courtesy Circa Sports
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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in North America with an emphasis on the casino, sports betting, horse racing and poker sectors. He is currently reporting on the gaming industries in Illinois and Canada.

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