Fairmount Park, in partnership with FanDuel, has received a go ahead to be become a racino in Illinois. This development comes as the majority see further restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) granted Fairmount Park a Master Sports Wagering License at a October 29 special meeting. It’s also agreed to give the track a “preliminary suitable” status to add casino games. The decision, which will allow the park to operate as FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing, makes FanDuel the first sportsbook to offer betting at multiple retail venues in the state.
Melissa Helton, President and General Manager of Fairmount Park, noted declining interest in horse racing a reason for applying for the licenses. “I am telling you this to communicate how significant this opportunity is for the company and all its people impacted,” she said. “The gaming bill giving us the right to apply to become a racino along with the sports wagering opportunity has been the biggest event to move Illinois horse racing back to what it once was and forward to greater heights.”
Eight of Illinois’ 10 casinos are operating under reduced daily hours and new capacity limits amid rising COVID-19 positivity rates in most state regions.
Eight other casino license applications will still have to wait. IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter noted that the board will get around to them, but announced a six-month extension to their consideration timeline, noting it’s been a tough year. “Like all government agencies and private businesses, the board’s work has been impacted by COVID-19,” Fruchter said. “This is not an excuse or a crutch. It is simply a recognition of the realities that work and life are different in a global pandemic.
The pandemic is no friend to currently licensed casinos either. The IGB has put forward new safety rules for 8 of the state’s 10 casinos will have reduced daily hours.
These rules have now taken effect at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, limiting it to open hours of 8:00 am to 11:00 pm, with capacity limited to 25%. Indoor food and beverage service is also suspended, but outdoor service, curbside and carryout are permitted.
The rules also apply to many of the state’s 36,000 video gambling machines at bars and restaurants. Food and beverage may not be served at such locations.
The new precautions come thanks to a spike in Covid-19 positivity rates. While the state had less than 2,000 new infections per day for most of the summer, the pandemic came roaring back for the fall, causing 8,303 new infections on November 1 alone. That forced new restrictions in much of the state, with only Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria and Jumer’s Casino in Rock Island left out of the stricter rules due to being in a different region.
They may not escape the tightening noose for long though. Governor J.B. Pritzker increases restrictions on Region 2, where Par-A-Dice and Jumer’s are located, suggesting they will see reduced hours as well.