It’s been just over two months since FanDuel SportsBook Illinois opened its lounge at Chicago’s United Center, and the facility is still waiting for retail sports betting approval.
The New York-based operator plans on adding retail kiosks and betting windows for Illinois sports betting to the lounge as soon as they get that approval from the Illinois Gaming Board, Chris Jones, who serves as FanDuel’s vice president of communications, told IllinoisBet.com.
Jones said the two-story lounge, which has 1,300 square feet of video screens, along with full food and beverage service, has been a main attraction for the company since opening in mid-October, even though retail wagers can’t be placed at the facility yet.
“We are continuing to work with our partners at the United Center and state and local officials on when we'll be able to start to operate as a sportsbook there and do that legally,” Jones said. “At the moment it is a lounge and will remain as such.”
Jones said FanDuel isn’t concerned about the turnaround time it’s taken for IGB approval, saying they’ve learned each state handles sports betting licenses in their own way.
“Every regulator and state moves in a way that they feel is right for their market,” Jones said. “We work in accordance with those with those groups. And when they're ready, we'll be ready. Until that time, we will continue to work with them to make sure that we're meeting every standard and every policy that they want us to follow.
“And until that is where it needs to be, we will continue to work with them and wait patiently.”
The Illinois Gaming Board has not responded to IllinoisBet.com's request for comment.
Illinois the Gift That Keeps on Giving for FanDuel
Jones said FanDuel has been thrilled with the response from customers since the state dropped its in-person mobile sports betting registration requirement for Illinois betting apps in March.
He said the operator is thrilled by the way customers have embraced their mobile application and retail sports betting, with the hang-up in getting the United Center sportsbook online doing little to deflate that optimism.
“We’ve been operating in Illinois, in accordance with the law there for quite some time. And we're extraordinarily happy with how things are operating there,” Jones said. “Obviously, the in-person versus mobile [sportsbook registration] change has helped our business and we're continuing to see the success of that in Illinois specifically.
“So, we're delighted to be able to operate there, we continue to work with regulators cooperatively there. And in time, hopefully customers will be able to place a bet in our sportsbook at United Center when we're legally allowed to do so.”
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How Illinois Stacks Up in FanDuel’s National Strategy
Jones said FanDuel sees Illinois as a central pillar of its national sports betting blueprint, both for mobile and retail wagering.
He feels the state’s willingness to work with operators to drop the burdensome in-person registration requirement is an example of how flexible Illinois lawmakers and regulators are, while also highlighting why the Prairie State is at the forefront of sports betting in the U.S.
“We are very excited on the ability to grow the market. And we have seen the market grow,” Jones said. “And you've seen, in the reported handle figures as well as in the number of downloads in the state is all moving in a positive upward trajectory.
“And we think that that's a positive thing and we're happy and thankful to the state for making the change that's helped grow the business and ultimately create more tax revenue for the state.”
Importance of Retail Sports Betting Venues
The decision to build retail sportsbooks like the one at United Center is a core tenet for FanDuel, Jones said, as it allows them to meet customers where they want — whether that be on their phone or at a brick-and-mortar facility.
Chicago repealed its ban on sports betting last December. FanDuel announced plans to build its United Center facility in January of this year.
“For a specific subset of our customer base, they enjoy going to a facility and being able to place their bets safely and legally, but also enjoy what a retail environment can bring all the excitement that comes with being inside the arena,” Jones said. “And if there's a game going on that day at the arena, maybe even going to the game. So, it's just an extension of metaphysical, like real extension of the brand beyond our mobile product.”
Jones’ parting shot for Illinois sports betting customers is their new United Center facility adds another layer to the company’s existing product in Illinois.
He also believes customers will flock to the facility thanks to the Windy City’s attachment to the Bulls and Blackhawks, with the FanDuel lounge at United Center serving as a promenade of sorts for sports fans in the city.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” Jones said, “It's a beautiful space and venue inside of an iconic building, inside of an iconic sports town, and we're excited for what the future holds with our partners at the United Center, and in our lounge there.”