Illinois

PointsBet completes its OTB sports betting placements in Illinois

“Location, location, location” is not limited to the real estate business.

PointsBet opened this month at Crazy Pour in Villa Park, about 20 miles west of downtown Chicago and about equidistant from Hawthorne Race Course, where the main sportsbook is currently operated, and a Racino will be its third and final off-track sportsbook in Illinois finally built. Crazy Pour joins Hawthorne-linked OTBs in Crestwood and Prospect Heights that have been retrofitted to add sports betting capabilities as permitted under the Games Expansion Act of 2019, which legalized sports betting in the state.

Illinois, with its abundance of mobile sports betting, recently became the fourth state, along with New York, New Jersey and Nevada, to transact more than $1 billion a month in both October and November. The retail game, meanwhile, has been solid since the first bets were placed in March 2020, days before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – and that’s where Crazy Pour comes in.

In the first 11 months of 2022, brick-and-mortar sportsbooks surpassed $350 million nationwide, excluding pandemic-related capacity constraints, and will more than double 2021 levels when the Illinois Gaming Board releases December numbers. Combined in-person betting at Hawthorne and its two OTB locations totaled nearly $23.1 million and generated nearly $1.8 million in revenue in 2022, raising expectations for Crazy Pour to be a will have an immediate effect.

“All I knew was that they already have that customer base – if they’re hosting a sporting event, they already have a lot,” said Mike McFadden, who oversees sports betting action at PointsBet’s three OTBs. “You have people who are dying to come and see the Bears game, even if they’re 3-14 years old and they’re first draft picks.”

brackets of rivers

Villa Park wasn’t among the three locations Hawthorne considered in his original plans for a retail sportsbook, but that was also because Crazy Pour was an OTB affiliated with Arlington Racetrack at the time. McFadden worked at Crazy Pour during this time, giving him extensive knowledge of the venue, ownership and client base.

After Churchill Downs Inc. decided to end horse racing in Illinois and sell the legendary track to the Chicago Bears for $196.2 million, the Illinois Racing Board refused the Kentucky-based company a license to conduct Off -Track betting at the Arlington site. This allowed Hawthorne to expand its inventory of OTB sites and consider Crazy Pour.

“It was [Hawthorne assistant general manager] John Walsh, who introduced us to these guys, and they’re doing a great, great job,” said Hawthorne CEO Tom Carey of the Crazy Pour selection. “[They] know how to run a business and as soon as we sat down with them it was obvious that they care about customer service. By managing so many OTBs you can see the good and the bad in terms of who is really interested in their deals. And these guys are really into their business, which made us say it was a no-brainer.”

Crazy Pour fitted what Hawthorne wanted to achieve on several levels. When compared to Crestwood and Prospect Heights, Crazy Pour almost has a Goldilocks-like feel, both in terms of the size of the venue and how it mixes sportsbook and horse racing. While the retail book has its own area with eight self-service kiosks and three windows, bettors can still use smartphones to both bet and set up their accounts to withdraw funds.

“The greatest thing that PointsBet offers to all customers is online withdrawal,” said McFadden. “You place a bet here, you win, you credit your account immediately. You make a bet on your account, you win, you can make a cash withdrawal and within 10-15 minutes you get a code and get up to $10,000 cash without going to your bank, waiting for PayPal, that kind of thing .”

Geographically, the bracketing of Rivers Sportsbook — the state’s largest brick-and-mortar venue — was also achieved with Crazy Pour less than eight miles directly south of Oakbrook Terrace and 12 miles southwest of Rivers. Prospect Heights is less than 10 miles north of the casino and offers PointsBet two nearby locations to compete head-to-head with Illinois personal bookmaker Goliath, as well as upcoming FanDuel and DraftKings sportsbook arrivals at the United Center and Wrigley Field, respectively.

“We have a lot of expectations,” McFadden said, without naming Rivers. “Our main focus has been on the biggest competitor in this space, strategically placing our four locations there to try to attract some of the customers that usually go there. This is the final springboard for getting Oakbrook, Villa Park, Addison, all these customers to get them to get in here, have a drink, enjoy good food and place a bet here instead of going to some of our competitors .”

Betting worlds collide

While OTBs and sportsbooks can serve as a kind of matchmaker to introduce each group to each other, getting them to each other’s respective betting windows remains a key challenge.

“It always seems that the sports customer base is different than the horse racing customer base. A lot of those clients that you thought were mixing still have that disconnect with the two of them,” noted McFadden. “There’s no rhyme or reason for it. … Getting both of them to play both, it’s rare to find a bigger player who enjoys doing both.”

Mixing is at the heart of Hawthorne’s plans for his Racino, and McFadden is optimistic that Crazy Pour can be one of the catalysts to achieve that goal.

“Everyone just works as one entity,” McFadden said of the biggest need for Crazy Pour to be successful. “The biggest thing when we started [PointsBet CEO Johnny Aitken] said bringing horse racing and sports betting together it’s the same kind of thing you just add a bar vibe. They add three groups of people and they all work as a cohesive unit to make it better.”

Photos in story: Ryan Brandoff

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