When hometown hero and former Chicago Blackhawks hockey player Eddie Olczyk bet $100 on the White Sox to win the American League pennant, the state of Illinois officially commenced a new era of legal sports wagering and saw Rivers Casino become the first sportsbook operator to take bets.

Olczyk played for the Blackhawks for five seasons – and he currently leads the NHL’s national broadcasts on NBC Sports – so he was a natural fit to place the Prairie State’s first legal bet.

Offering 16 to 1 odds on the Sox to represent the A.L in the 2020 World Series, the Rivers Casino BetRivers Sportsbook in Des Plaines booked Olczyk’s action on March 9.

In doing so, Rivers Casino Des Plaines – which is owned and operated by the Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming – became the first sportsbook operator in Illinois to begin taking bets.

Rivers Casino Joins Other States with Live Sports Betting

Illinois lawmakers passed a bill allowing both physical and online / mobile sportsbooks in early June of last year, and Governor J.B. Pritzker signed it into law later that month.

With the launch on Monday, Illinois became the 14th state to take advantage of a U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 which repealed a federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada. Five other states – Montana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado, and Michigan – have passed similar laws which should be implemented in either 2020 or 2021.

In addition to Rivers Casino Des Plaines, five other casino venues have applied for sports betting licenses.

Penn National Gaming – which operates a pair of Hollywood Casino locations in the cities of Joliet and Aurora, along with Argosy Casino Alton near St. Louis – told the Chicago Tribune that the company’s launch plans will be revealed in “the coming days.”

As for the other two applicants – Victoria Casino in Elgin and Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino in East Peoria – representatives have declined to specify their respective sportsbook launch timelines.

Local Casino Co. Celebrates Launch of State’s First Sportsbook

For the locally based Rush Street Gaming – which operates three additional Rivers Casino venues in Pennsylvania and New York – becoming Illinois’ first operational sportsbook provider was a major feather in the company’s proverbial cap.

In an interview with Sports Handle, Rush Street Gaming’s co-founder and chief executive officer Greg Carlin confirmed that launching first in Illinois was a point of pride for the company:

“It’s extremely gratifying, one of the great things about it was seeing all of our folks in our company from different departments coming together to make it happen.

For us to get open first is a big accomplishment, especially in our home state of Illinois, and we’re really proud about it.”

Corey Wise – who serves as senior vice president and general manager of Rivers Casino Des Plaines – issued a statement to local media outlets framing his sportsbook as the only place to play for college basketball bettors:

“The BetRivers Sportsbook will take March Madness out of the office pool and into an exciting, elevated live sports wagering experience.

We are grateful to the Illinois Gaming Board staff for their work approving our sportsbook in time for the college basketball tournament – one of the greatest sports events of the year.”

Rush Street Gaming’s co-founder and chairman Neil Bluhm offered the following comments on the company’s home state taking decisive action to regulate sports betting:

“The governor and the [Illinois General Assembly] saw an opportunity to take an underground market, and make it legal, regulated, and produce taxes and jobs.

People have been betting on sports since the first time somebody threw a ball into a field.

We’ve all participated in office pools and other major sporting events, like March Madness, and we’re now getting a chance to bet here in the state.”

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro GambleOnline.co about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virginia and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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