Rivers Casino in Des Plaines has officially launched Illinois’ sports betting scene, with Churchill Downs Incorporated and Rush Street Gaming debuting a BetRivers Sportsbook at their joint venture this week.

As several more land-based establishments prepare to make their own entry, analysts at PlayIllinois.com believe the market could eventually generate in excess of $10bn annually to become one of the country’s largest.

Becoming the 15th state to allow legal sports betting, with only New York and Pennsylvania being able to draw upon a larger population, Illinois’ retail sportsbook market is expected to endure quick expansion with five new additions.

These include Argosy Casino Alton, Hollywood Casino Aurora, Hollywood Casino Joliet, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, and Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in East Peoria. Fairmont Park Racetrack in Collinsville, near St. Louis, has also been approved for a temporary operating permit.

Should the market fully mature, including the launch of online wagering, PlayIllinois believes the state could generate from $9bn to $11bm in wagers annually and $650m in operator gross revenue.

“Illinois’ potential is enormous, but it has a long way to go to become a major player relative to the largest markets in the US,” noted Dustin Gouker, lead analyst at PlayIllinois.com

“Launching the industry is obviously a momentous first step. But because of regulatory roadblocks to online sports betting, it will be years before Illinois can enjoy the same kind of boom that we’ve seen in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.”

With online sports betting not expected to debut until later in the year, however, significant hurdles still remain for the region, with in-person registration to be required when launch does occur. 

The Illinois law will allow for three stand-alone mobile operators, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, but due to the aforementioned registration requirement, those would not be able to accept a bet for at least 18 months. And with a hefty $20m fee to obtain one of those three licenses, it’s not clear which operators will apply.

“Illinois’ high licensing fees for online operators and its in-person registration requirements will undoubtedly stunt the growth of the industry,” Gouker added. 

“Even with the high fees, the appeal of the Illinois market will eventually be too much to resist for the country’s largest operators. But neighbour Indiana will be able to continue to cash in on the Chicago market until Illinois gets up to speed.”