HomeIllinois Sports Betting NewsIllinois Well-Prepared for Neighboring Kentucky’s Sports Betting

Illinois Well-Prepared for Neighboring Kentucky’s Sports Betting

Every major expansion of legal gambling in the U.S. - whether the modern lottery, casinos, or sports betting - follows a similar pattern.

Image: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Even lawmakers not initially interested in such activity tend to take notice when a neighboring state expands its gambling options. That’s because those states that don’t “play the game” inevitably get hit by a loss of tax revenue, as residents who live near the border of a state with such amenities spend some of their discretionary income out-of-state.

And if Illinois hadn’t gotten a multi-year head start, Kentucky’s launch of both retail and mobile sports betting in September – the 37th state to legalize that form of gambling – would have taken its toll on the Illinois Treasury.

Instead, Illinois residents have enjoyed making legal sports bets in the state since March 9, 2020 – on the eve of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three months later, BetRivers – the first mobile sportsbook in Illinois – began taking wagers.

But a quirk in the original Illinois sports betting law in the state forced residents to show up at one of the state’s casinos to open a mobile sportsbook account. That was not only inconvenient but also a repellent idea for many who were wary of entering crowded casinos during the pandemic.

That all changed in March 2022, when the state began allowing residents to sign up for a mobile sports betting account from the comfort of their homes.

So while residents and visitors to Kentucky got their first chances to make sports bets at state racetracks on Sept. 7 and get their first opportunities to bet online on Sept. 28, Illinois citizens have little reason to cross over to Kentucky to make a bet.

That means that sizable numbers such as the $9.3 billion in wagers made in Illinois in 2022 – and the $119 million in resulting tax revenue – are unlikely to shrink in spite of a neighbor’s own belated launch.

Caesars Sportsbook On The Illinois/Kentucky Border

As if to underscore that point, Caesars Entertainment – which has operated the Harrah’s Metropolis Casino and Hotel at the site for most of the casino’s 30 years – opened a sportsbook at the site on Sept. 7, the same day Kentucky casinos took their first bets.

The city of Metropolis happens to be located on the banks of the Ohio River that separates Illinois from Kentucky. Residents who prefer in-house sports betting now have that amenity as well.

Former defensive back George Wilson, Jr., who played in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans from 2004-14 and who is a native of nearby Paducah, Ky., was the featured guest at the ribbon-cutting for the opening of the Metropolis sportsbook.

Bill Reeg, Caesars Entertainment’s regional president, said in a statement that the company had long planned to add a sportsbook at the casino, and the launch coincided nicely with the kickoff of the NFL and college football seasons.

“Caesars is proud of our commitment to Illinois and the entire southern Illinois region,” Reeg said. “We’re excited to open our new Caesars Sportsbook at Harrah’s Metropolis to honor the legacy it holds in the region. We can’t wait to introduce all that sports betting has to offer to sports fans while sharing our emphasis on responsible gaming.”

The sportsbook opening also allows the Metropolis site to get a jump on the Walker’s Bluff Casino in Carterville, Ill., which opened in late August but does not yet feature a sportsbook. The new casino is located about 55 miles northwest of Metropolis.

The latest Illinois casino opening is part of a 2019 amendment to the Illinois Gambling Act that allowed for up to six new casinos to open in the state – where 14 such sites are now in operation.

Caesars also has retail sportsbook locations in Illinois at its Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin and Harrah’s Casino in Joliet.

Metropolis’s Other Claim to Fame

Fans of the Superman comics likely would recall that the legendary hero’s alter ego Clark Kent is a newspaper reporter for The Daily Planet in “Metropolis.” While no state was specified in the original stories, the Illinois town has gone to great lengths to lay claim to a link.

A 15-foot-tall bronze Superman statue stands proudly in the town’s main square.

The Superman Museum, which includes more than 70,00 pieces of memorabilia related to the superhero, opened in 1993 – the same year that the Players Island Casino opened in town. That property was owned by entertainment and casino mogul Merv Griffin, with Caesars taking over the property in 2000.