Circa Sports Planting Flag In Huge Illinois Sports Betting Market

The Circa Sports sportsbook inside Circa Las Vegas Resort & Casino in downtown Las Vegas is one of the most well-appointed sportsbooks in the nation.
Image Credit: Circa Sports

Since March 2020, when Illinois went live with legalized sports betting, many big-brand national sportsbook operators have come on board. DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel, Caesars, PointsBet USA and more are active in Illinois.

That market will soon get a jolt from a sportsbook with a much different business model. Circa Sports Illinois is aiming to launch later this year.

On May 9, Circa Sports announced it will partner with Full House Resorts at the new American Place hotel-casino in Waukegan, Illinois. Circa will operate retail and mobile betting operations in conjunction with Full House’s new property less than an hour north of Chicago.

Jeff Benson, sportsbook operations manager for Circa Sports, provided with insights on the expansion.

The Next Frontier

A fan takes a photo of the skyline before a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Image Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Circa Sports currently operates in three jurisdictions: Nevada, Colorado, and Iowa. The company’s flagship retail shop is the massive sportsbook inside the Circa Las Vegas resort on iconic Fremont Street downtown. But Circa has a strong retail presence in all three states and continues strategizing on further expansion.

Benson acknowledged that Illinois, with its huge population base in Chicago, was a highly desirable spot to plant the Circa flag.

“We obviously knew there was a skin or license up for grabs in Illinois, and we were able to connect with the Full House team,” Benson said.

American Place is under construction, aiming to open at some point in 2023. However, the Temporary at American Place — a placeholder for the full resort — is set to welcome guests later this year. That property will include the Circa sportsbook. So wagering with Circa Sports Illinois — both retail and mobile — could be in play by the middle of the upcoming NFL season. Ultimately, as noted in a May 9 news release, American Place will house a state-of-the-art sportsbook.

“We’re excited about the brand-new casino building in Waukegan. Having [Full House] come out and view Circa here in Las Vegas, they want to channel some of that experience to their patrons,” Benson said. “A brand-new casino, a hotbed of a market right outside Chicago, it made sense for us that it would be Circa Sports’ first retail property outside Nevada.

“We’ll have both brick-and-mortar and mobile, simultaneously in terms of when we go live, when the [temporary] casino opens later this fall.”

A Different Model

A group of people stand in front of a wall of televisions showing a variety of sports during the opening ceremony of the Oneida Casino's sports betting operation on Nov. 30, 2021, in Ashwaubenon, Wis.
Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Deposit matches and free bets have been key components of many American sportsbook operators since the federal ban on sports betting was lifted in May 2018. Such deals are even more prevalent upon launching in new jurisdictions. But that’s not how Circa has made its name thus far. And it won’t be how Circa Sports Illinois gains traction, either.

“You can’t be all things to all people. And we’ve really made our name by being different,” Benson said. “If the most important things for patrons are deposit matches and free bets, Circa Sports may not be their book today. But if you’re a patron looking for the best odds and the lowest hold percentage, or big limits and great customer service, I’d say that we’d be able to provide that option.”

Benson said the Circa model encourages patrons to just math things out a little bit, comparing how Circa does business versus other operators. He pointed to examples of books having 15 to 20 percent higher hold rates on futures markets. Or competitors having significantly larger price straddles on prop bets and such.

“If you get a $500 risk-free bet or a $250 deposit match, that’s all well and good,” Benson said. “But how much did that free money cost you in expected value in the long run? We try to approach this like a sports bettor, which is different than some of the other players in the industry.”

It’s All About Consistency

Clay Sims decides on his picks at the opening of the William Hill Sports Book at the Tropicana Evansville Thursday. The sports-book features a 16-by-9 feet video wall, ten 65-inch viewing monitors, and 12 odds boards, September 12, 2019.

For bettors who placed wagers in Circa’s books in Las Vegas, the Circa Sportsbook Illinois experience should seem familiar. And for those in the Land of Lincoln who haven’t partaken, the model should be a welcome addition.

“We’re going to try to be as consistent as we can on a state-by-state basis. You’re going to tend to see much the same menu you’d see in Colorado and Nevada, pursuant to what’s been approved in Illinois. And as we gear up, we’ll offer a deeper menu,” Benson said, specifically noting in-game wagering.

The tent pole of that menu, though, per usual with Circa: Bettors big and small won’t have any trouble getting a wager down.

“We’re obviously excited to expand into a fourth state and offer a fair and transparent marketplace for all bettors. That includes those characterized as sharp or winning bettors, non-recreational,” Benson said. “We’re aiming to provide liquidity for bettors, so that they’re able to make a one-stop shop to get down on the bet sizes that they’re looking for.”