Legal sports betting finally begins in Illinois on Monday, and the state’s most lucrative casino, Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, plans to open its state-of-the-art sportsbook in time for one of the busiest betting events of the year, March Madness.

Sports bettors in the midwestern US state will be able to place wagers on a broad range of sports at BetRivers Sportsbook beginning at 12pm on March 9, 2020, after on Friday the Illinois Gaming Board granted final approval.

The move comes more than eight months after “The Prairie State”  legalized sports wagering.

March Madness ready:

“The BetRivers Sportsbook will take March Madness out of the office pool and into an exciting, elevated live sports wagering experience,” said Corey Wise, senior vice president and general manager of Rivers Casino. “We are grateful to the Illinois Gaming Board staff for their work approving our sportsbook in time for the college basketball tournament,” according to ABC 7 Chicago.

The 2020 NCAA March Madness tournament jumps off on March 17, and along with the Super Bowl, is one of the biggest sports betting events of the year.

Enabling legislation:

Rivers, along with five other Illinois casinos, filed applications under the Illinois Sports Wagering Act after the process was formally opened in December by the gaming board. The goal at the time was to open in time for March Madness 2020. All of this, of course, made possible by new legislation signed into law by Illinois Governor Jay Robert Pritzker on June 28, 2019.

With a cost of up to $1o million each, the sports wagering licenses are limited to casinos, horse racetracks and large sports arenas for the first 18 months of the industry’s launch. Only ffter retail sports betting has been in effect for that period, will online-only betting sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel be able to apply for licenses at a lofty $20 million each.

To start, sports betting will only be available at Rivers inside the new sports book, however, the casino plans to roll out its website and mobile app later this year. Gamblers at the Des Plaines casino will be able to place wagers on American professional and collegiate sporting events, while betting on some Illinois collegiate teams will be restricted, per state law.

Rivers’ Tournament events:

Owned by Louisville, Kentucky-based gambling giant Churchill Downs and Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming, Rivers is planning college basketball watch parties from Round 1 of the 2020 NCAA Tournament on March 19 through the championship game on April 6.

Rivers’ state-of-the-art sportsbook (pictured, left) includes a 47-foot-wide ultra HD LEG video wall, five betting windows, and 30 sportsbook kiosks.

Penn National plans:

The Chicago Tribune reports that…

…gamblers at Hollywood Casinos in Joliet and Aurora and Argosy Casino Alton located near St. Louis can expect their operator, Penn National Gaming, to provide information about rollout dates for their sportsbooks in the “coming days,” according to company spokesman Jeff Morris.

Temporary permits:

Along with Penn’s three casinos, temporary operating permits were also received by Eldorado Resorts’ Grand Victoria and Boyd’s Par-A-Dice, as well as horse track Fairmount Park.

Illinois is now the 15th state with legal sports betting.