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I made a legal sports bet in Illinois on Monday

The future is finally here with the opening of the Rivers Casino sportsbook

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk

Good morning, frents

Hard to believe, but today marks a month since I launched Midway Minute. A lot has happened in the world since then and reading the news can be an anxiety-causing experience. While I’m never going to shy away from world events when it involves Chicago sports (see the Urlacher story in the links section), I hope reading this newsletter can provide a few minutes of reprieve from the more serious stuff going on around us. Hopefully you see it that way, too.

As always, if you’re enjoying Midway Minute, share it with a frent

Let the wagering begin

Sports betting has a long history in Chicago sports, whether it was the Black Sox throwing the 1919 World Series for some of the nation’s biggest gamblers or my grandma buying squares for Bears games from her bookie on the East Side.

But never had anyone placed a legal sports bet before Monday morning when Blackhawks broadcaster Eddie Olczyk stepped up to a window at Rosemont’s Rivers Casino and placed a cool $100 on the White Sox to win the AL pennant at 16/1 odds.

Eddie O’s wager was the ceremonial first bet in state history, placed 255 days after Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Illinois Sports Wagering Act into law. Ever since, the state has worked to figure out its regulatory laws while the state’s casinos drew up plans for sports books that would attract bettors to its windows.

With the state recently giving the green light on regulation front, Rivers was first out of the gate, unveiling its new sportsbook with the Olczyk event in advance of the upcoming NCAA tournament.

The nearly 5,000-square foot facility isn’t anywhere near the scale of a big Vegas book, but it's an attractive area with five windows, 30 bettings kiosks, a bar pouring craft beer and 47 feet of big-screen television screens. Laurence Holmes and Joe Ostrowski later broadcast for 670 The Score with the knowledgeable Ostrowski answering questions about what the future holds. (You can listen to that here and I highly recommend it because Joe is so good at what he does.)

Rivers is the only show in town for now. But that will change. The act allows for sports wagering to take place at any of the state’s 10 casinos, three horse tracks and up to seven big sports venues like Soldier Field and the United Center. Three online-only licenses (think DraftKings) will also be granted 18 months after passage of the act, once the brick-and-mortar casinos get a chance to establish their business. (You’ll also  be able to bet online through the casinos in the months ahead, but only after you register for an account in person.)

I had a meeting in the city in the morning, so I wasn’t there for Eddie O’s bet.

But I did want to see how easy it would be to place a bet at Rivers. So on my way back home, I wheeled into a spot on the third floor of the casino’s parking garage, took the escalator down to the main floor and hung a left to the sportsbook area.

The bank of kiosks were busy, but I also didn’t have a problem securing an open one. I pulled out the $10 bill I had on me — hey, don’t laugh, this is a free newsletter! — and planned to put $5 on the Cubs to win the World Series and $5 for the White Sox to do the same.

Only problem? It was a $10 minimum bet. So like countless of other idiots who are going to singlehandedly solve the state’s pension problems by wagering with their hearts, I put my ceremonial hopes on the arm of one Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears at 40/1. (It wasn’t a great value, but Rivers knows it could make the Bears 3/5 and still draw bets.)

Ten minutes later, I was back in my car and headed home.

While I can’t imagine just randomly running over to Rosemont to buy $20 worth of skin in that night’s game — that’s where the mobile apps will become clutch — the idea of meeting up with friends for a Saturday slate of college basketball or football holds a lot more appeal than posting up at a regular old bar.

But I’m sure I’m far from the only one who thinks that. Given that there were dividers for line management by the kiosks, it appears that Rivers is assuming it won’t always be that easy and that big crowds are coming for the big events.

The first test, of course, will be next week’s NCAA tournament. By that time, legal wagering on sports in Illinois will have quickly moved from novelty to norm.

What a world.

Are you planning on betting in Illinois? Let me know.

Monday’s results

Sox 3, Reds 3
Yasmani Grandal homered, but Dylan Cease struggled with his control, giving up three runs, three walks and four hits over three innings of work.

UIC 73, Wright State 56
Might Bradley and Illinois have company next week? The fourth-seeded Flames upset the Horizon League’s top seed to advance to their first conference final since 2004. Beat Northern Kentucky tonight (6 pm, ESPN) and UIC will earn the fourth NCAA bid in school history.

Today’s schedule

Cavs (+4) at Bulls (7, NBC Sports Chicago, O/U 215.5)

Spring training
Cubs at Giants (3:05 pm, Marquee)
Rangers at Sox (3:05 pm, MLB.com)

MLB, MLS and the NBA all announced on Monday they’re closing clubhouses and locker rooms to media as a way to combat the spread of coronavirus. The NHL was the first to move toward such a measure, but the Blackhawks’ dressing room was still open to media members following Sunday’s loss to the St. Louis.

Coby White will finally get his first career start for the Bulls in tonight’s game against Cleveland. Fun fact: He’ll replace Tomas Satoransky, the only other team member to also appear in all 64 Bulls games (starting all of them) to date.

Have a link for Midway Minute? Email me

• DePaul’s women’s basketball team handled Marquette at Wintrust on Monday night for its third straight Big East tournament title. (Tribune)

What was Brian Urlacher doing at the White House? (Heavy)

Great news for White Sox fans: Adam Hoge, a huge fan and fantastic broadcaster, is joining NBC Sports Chicago as a White Sox Insider.

Better news for Bears fans: Hoge will still be doing his podcast with Adam Jahns, which I rank as my favorite sports podcast in the city. (Robert Feder)

• Speaking of podcasts, Cubscast was the original Cubs podcast, existing even before there were such a thing as Apple Podcasts or even iPhones. Zach, one of the Cubscast original podders, relaunched a show on Monday and I was honored to be one of his first guests. (Hey Chicago)

After leaving The Athletic, Andy Dolan has a new Cubs newsletter. You should subscribe to it, too. (Pointless Exercise)

• Finally, I’m giving you some homework for today. MLB.com just rolled out a super cool feature that lets you search over 3 million videos in its database. I immediately used it to watch The Glenallen Hill homer and Carlton Fisk tagging out two Yankees.

But I want to see which videos you come up with. Use the search and then send me the gems you find. If I get a good list, I’ll include them in an upcoming Minute. (MLB.com)

That’s it for today. Thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter!