March (Wagering) Madness – You Can Bet on It

(Ken Teegardin / Flickr)(Ken Teegardin / Flickr)

It’s not a football fan’s fantasy anymore.

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For the first time, gamblers will be able to legally wager on sports games in Illinois starting at noon Monday, when Rivers Casino in Des Plaines opens its BetRivers Sportsbook.

A massive gambling expansion package that was approved last spring paved the way for sports wagering in the state, but it’s taken until now for those authorized to offer it to get regulators’ approval.

BetRivers received preliminary approval Friday from the Illinois Gaming Board’s administrator to begin taking bets on sports starting Monday; the full board still has to vote to formally grant the sports wagering license. The next board meeting is scheduled for March 12.

According to a Rivers’ press release, the casino’s sportsbook will offer a 47-foot-wide, high-definition LED video wall, 14 other HD televisions throughout a lounge “offering patrons a panoramic view of live sports events,” a full service bar and bar-top video poker games.

Chicago-born former Blackhawk hockey center Eddie Olczyk will be on hand Monday to open the sportsbook at a 10 a.m. ceremony.

The timing means sports wagering will be up and running in time for the March Madness basketball tournament, set to tip off March 17.

But gamblers can’t use their bets to back hometown teams should any make the tournament. State law bans betting on any Illinois collegiate sports team.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky


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