Illinois approves Betway for online-only sports betting license; Hard Rock for both mobile and retail

The Illinois Gaming Board announced Thursday the approval of Hard Rock for both mobile and retail betting licenses, and Betway as the sole winning bidder for one of three online-only wagering licenses.

After an unsuccessful attempt last year, the board received only one qualified applicant in its second try to award the online-only permits. A subsidiary of Digital Gaming Corp, based in Las Vegas, was the sole approved candidate for the online sportsbook license.

Unlike other operators in the state, DGC IL’s license would not be tied to any casino, racetrack, or sports venue. DGC IL had previously applied for the online sports betting license during the first round of applications last year but withdrew from the process.

Since then, it has been acquired by Super Group, a British online gaming holding company seeking to expand its presence in the US. Super Group previously leased its Betway sports betting platform to DGC IL, which used it in several states, including Iowa and Indiana.

If DGC IL decides to proceed with its application this time, it will have to undergo a comprehensive vetting process by the Gaming Board and pay a $20 million licensing fee before obtaining final approval to operate in Illinois.

Marcus Fruchter, the Gaming Board administrator, emphasized that being found qualified and identified as the winning bidder does not indicate a finding of suitability or a grant of licensure. It is simply a finding based on the information known by the Gaming Board, confirming that the applicant and its key individuals meet the minimum suitability criteria.

Initially, two applicants filed by the March 1 deadline, but Bet J&J, an Effingham-based video gaming operator, withdrew its application on July 10, leaving DGC IL as the sole candidate.

Last year, Illinois faced a setback as none of the four companies that applied were awarded any of the three online licenses, failing to make it through the process successfully.

The Illinois Gaming Board is considering the possibility of reopening applications for a third round to award the remaining online-only licenses, but this is contingent on the outcome of the DGC IL approval process. 

Hard Rock also approved

On Thursday, the Gaming Board also granted an initial sports wagering license for Hard Rock Casino Rockford, allowing the brand to conduct both retail and online wagering. The company will need to make a request to the board to commence activities after being approved for its Management Services Provider license, required for sports betting.

The move clears the way for a new physical sportsbook at the property. Hard Rock is eyeing a sports betting launch within the next few months, as the casino finalizes internal controls and starts hiring and training staff for the vertical. The casino has been operating as a temporary facility for nearly two years and is in the process of constructing a larger, permanent property to open next year.

The initial approval follows Hard Rock’s announcement earlier this month that it will be rebranding and updating its sports wagering product. Hard Rock Sportsbook will be changing its name to Hard Rock Bet for a platform that integrates Hard Rock’s sportsbook and iGaming arms into one updated app. In addition to a new name, the product also features an upgraded appearance and a rewards program.