Chris Altruda, Legal Sports Betting Expert joins Rodney on the Knup Sports Podcast! The guys talk about how more sports betting locations are on the way in Illinois plus much more.
Show notes from Chris Altruda Interview
Ryan Knuppel: Everywhere you turn, it’s the same old sports talk, the same headlines, the same news and the same boring information. This podcast is here to change all of that. We bring you hot sports takes, winning sports betting strategy and picks, reliable gaming industry news and breaking interviews with some of the biggest names in sports business. My name is Ryan Knuppel. Welcome to the Knup Sports Show.
Rodney Knuppel: Welcome to the Knup Sports Podcast. I am Rodney Knuppel, not your typical host as Ryan Knuppel has been doing most of the podcasts here recently, but Rodney Knup Sports Podcast and I’ve got a great guest on the line with us. I call him a sports betting industry expert. He may be known as the analyst, but I think he’s the expert. And he broke some big news regarding the state of Illinois and here in Illinois, while Ryan, the other side of us, is down there in sunny central Florida. But he broke some big news, Chris Altruda is joining me and he’s going to talk a little bit about the Illinois sports betting news that went down. Chris, first of all, are you doing this afternoon?
Chris Altruda: Pretty good out here in the North side of Chicago. Nice sunny Friday and hopefully I’ll step outside on my back deck of my apartment and soak it all in at some point.
Rodney Knuppel: Yeah. First of all, let’s just kind of talk about, just you briefly, you don’t have to get too personal here, but how are you doing through all of this? That’s kind of the question I’ve got to ask everybody because I think that’s what a lot of people forget about is, how are you doing? At 50 days now where we’ve kind of just been home. I mean, are you handling it all right?
Chris Altruda: I mean, I think so. I mean, we were talking before, I’m by myself out here in terms of being single and my family is spread out across the country. So I’m pretty much a latchkey adult at this point. When I go food shopping, I go to Mariano’s, I buy chicken tenders, that gets me through a week. I got a frozen pizza, that lasts me two days. So it’s simple living, it’s single guy living at its finest. I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m a cigar away from being Oscar Madison at this point. So I mean, I think all things considered, I’m doing well. I mean, my stomach might tell you otherwise because I’m sure I’ve put on about 10 pounds. But I mean, other than that, no complaints yet.
Rodney Knuppel: Yeah. For me personally, 50 days of no sports. And I know right when the NCAA tournament was getting started or going to get started, that’s when it kind of ripped our hearts away. And I do got to mention, before we get into the Illinois news, big Marquette basketball fan here, Chris. So I mean, Marquette was going to win the national tournament, weren’t they?
Chris Altruda: Oh, absolutely. Marcus Howard would have averaged about 45 points a game, shot 55% from three point range. He made, Wojo look like a genius. I mean, would have been the first now tens team to probably win the NCAA tournament. It’s a fait accompli at that point.
Rodney Knuppel: And in all reality, they possibly may not have made the tournament.
Chris Altruda: I think that’s bit of a stretch because the bubble was so weak-
Rodney Knuppel: Yeah.
Chris Altruda: And it would have been exciting to watch had they flamed out into the big East tournament and then flamed out in the first round of the big East tournament. That selection Sunday would have been a sweat, I think for them.
Rodney Knuppel: Yeah.
Chris Altruda: But I still think they would have got in, at worst, as a first four. And I mean, I think one of the things about that season as a Marquette fan was that before the housers transferred out, everybody was pointing to this season as, well we have this, this, this and this and everyone’s going to come together and everyone’s going to play well and we’re going to be a final four contender. And then the housers transferred out and reasons, good, bad or indifferent.
Rodney Knuppel: Sure.
Chris Altruda: And I think everybody was just stuck with the bitterness of knowing that there was a tangible ceiling to this team because they left and they also know that there’s so much Marcus can do despite his superlative scoring skills. And I think everyone was just kind of just jaded about the season in the grand scheme of things.
Rodney Knuppel: Yeah, it was certainly interesting to watch from a non necessary, I’m not necessarily a Marquette fan or a hater, right? I’m a basketball fan so obviously, there’s no big rivalry there between Kansas and Marq yet. But certainly it was interesting to follow and your tweets were always interesting during Marq. I have two Marquette fans that tweet religiously during games and [crosstalk 00:04:19] kind of both your perspectives on how that went.
Chris Altruda: We’re an aggrieved bunch.
Rodney Knuppel: Sure. All right. Let’s get to the news that I got from you first. I didn’t say you broke this news first. Although obviously, in reality, there was probably someone else that knew about it before you, but I’ll say you broke the news here. Anyways, I am just outside of East Peoria, Illinois where the Paradise Casino is at. And some of the big news and some of the people around here are really excited as they have put in an application, they put their license in. It’s been approved, correct?
Chris Altruda: Yes. They are the sixth casino in as many to apply too have been given a temporary operating permit for sports betting in the state of Illinois. [crosstalk 00:05:05]
Rodney Knuppel: We’ll talk about Paradise here in a second, but Rivers Casino, and I feel for Rivers Casino because obviously they opened up and I somewhat feel for them. But anyways, they opened up there and what was it? Five days later, the sports just went away.
Chris Altruda: Yes.
Rodney Knuppel: Our legal-
Chris Altruda: It was Monday to Sunday.
Rodney Knuppel: Oh my goodness, yeah. Argosy down in Alton still’s kind of trying to get open obviously when they open up.
Chris Altruda: Right.
Rodney Knuppel: And then obviously Paradise. What is it? Fairmount Park, Hawthorne…
Chris Altruda: Fairmount and Hawthorne are only applicants at this point.
Rodney Knuppel: Okay, gotcha.
Chris Altruda: You have the Grand Victoria Casino and Elgin Riverboat, and your two Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet.
Rodney Knuppel: Yes.
Chris Altruda: Older casinos that have applied have been approved.
Rodney Knuppel: Okay, very nice.
Chris Altruda: The tracks have applied and they’re also in the process of applying for the Racino licenses. So I don’t know if the gaming board is viewing those applications in tandem, or whether they’re viewing the sports betting application as an entirely separate entity of the Racino.
Rodney Knuppel: Now that makes sense. Right. Okay. So let’s talk about Paradise here, obviously. Because a lot of local people here are interested in that. So it’s a good sign, but it’s not quite official that sports betting obviously is coming to the Paradise, because as far as I understand it, there are still some pretty big hurdles that Paradise still has to climb. Am I correct?
Chris Altruda: I don’t think there are many big ones left. Getting the operating permit is a big one. The next one is the one where you get the provisionary approval to accept wagers. And then when you get that, then you get to place a bet at the sports book. And right now, the finish line is in sight for Paradise, pretty much is what it comes down to.
Rodney Knuppel: Right, but I mean, there’s no real meetings in sight, nothing that they’re going to finalize this, is there? There’s not a date that this is-
Chris Altruda: No, they canceled a scheduled meeting last week, which means that at some point, I imagine, somewhere, I want to say before Memorial Day, but around Memorial Day, there should be another scheduled meeting. And the other thing they have to do at some point is, have the joint committee of administrative rulemaking meet to discuss the tier two rules, which also has been put back on the back burner, so to speak.
Chris Altruda: I looked at the agenda for the May 18th meeting and provisionally, right now, there was nothing under the sports betting rulemaking on the agenda. Now that doesn’t mean it won’t come up, it’s possible. It can be an add-on item. But right now, that’s something they also have to look at to sort of make sure that all the ducks are in a row for the IGB. And I think as you get those, you’re going to see the casinos that have gotten their permits being approved for wage reading and short order after that.
Rodney Knuppel: Very nice. So I mean, obviously, we’re all in kind of a wait and see mode with the pandemic going on right now. But let’s say things do start to clear, hopefully things are opening up here next couple of weeks or months or whatever.
Rodney Knuppel: I mean, we could realistically, if the Paradise get their ducks in a row, see sports betting by September and the NFL season. Do you think that’s a correct statement?
Chris Altruda: I think that’s a realistic statement. I believe that they can do that. I think one of the other things is that if the other leagues come online we’re talking about major league baseball, the resumption of the NBA and NHL seasons, those can, in some respects, serve as a dry run for football. Now, whether college football comes back with the NFL is a very big, if at this point, because you can see that colleges are skiddish about even opening their campuses. So you’re not going to get that volume that the NFL brings until the NFL is open and there are bets being placed on it. So that will be as a logistical stress test for sports books should it come to pass.
Rodney Knuppel: Sure. And obviously the big question is obviously right now, obviously, there’s no mobile aspect when the Paradise opens. And could you give a recap of how mobile in Illinois is looking and what you know from the mobile betting side?
Chris Altruda: So the mobile betting side is that an internet only operator, which for this instance, was specified to FanDuel and DraftKings, could not apply until 18 months after what we believe to be is after the first wager was placed.
Rodney Knuppel: Which would’ve been the March-
Chris Altruda: Which would have been March 9th at Rivers Casino.
Rodney Knuppel: Right. Yeah.
Chris Altruda: So right now, in some respects, FanDuel and DraftKings, while not in the market, also got the best of both worlds because right now, that penalty box provision is winding with no bets being placed. They haven’t lost market share because of this. Now, one of the questions is, and some of us where I work have kind of batted this around, is whether or not Rivers Casino, because they do have pull in the state, is going to make a racket to the general assembly, because this happened and the casinos were closed that the clock shouldn’t have been moving. Which will start off, if someone latches onto that, would probably start off another fight between Rivers and FanDuel and DraftKings.
Rodney Knuppel: Yeah, sounds messy and I can’t imagine that Rivers isn’t going to fight this, obviously, going six to eight weeks so far and who knows how long this is going to continue? And even at that, I mean, we’re not going to see, I guess we see NASCAR here soon. We’ve seen some [crosstalk 00:10:57].
Chris Altruda: Right.
Rodney Knuppel: coming up, but we’re not going to see any of the big sports until, I would guess, at least probably July 1st. I know baseball is talking about maybe late June, but yeah, I would guess there’ll be quite a fight there. But so I from Paradise side, locally, I mean, I guess so they could open up mobile betting when they’re ready. Is that right?
Chris Altruda: I believe it’s the case because it would be tied to a sports book at a physical location that the sports book would be able to offer a mobile service, yes.
Rodney Knuppel: Sure.
Chris Altruda: I know that to be the case.
Rodney Knuppel: Yeah, because I mean, the latest I was understanding was Rivers was trying to get closer and closer to offering the mobile bet. Obviously, I don’t know where they’re at now with the layoffs that we’ve had, but that was going to be available in the summer.
Chris Altruda: [crosstalk 00:11:52] Well, I think the thing is, Rivers will definitely be, in all likelihood, will be first to offer.
Rodney Knuppel: Yeah, okay.
Chris Altruda: The GeoComply group, which does the geofencing, has teamed with Rush Street Interactive and GeoComply was recently approved as a supplier by the IGB. So in essence, Rush Street Interactive has everything in line to offer mobile sports betting. Now, whether or not they’re going to do it with Fanfare or they’re going to sit and wait and see how things come back and then tap on your phone and place a bet, or whether it’s going to be like Iowa, where you have to register in person in order to access the betting app.
Rodney Knuppel: Sure. Yeah, that’s a big question there. That’ll be interesting to see what happens there. So Colorado is the latest, obviously Colorado, Virginia are some of the latest here. And I think a lot of industry experts are talking Colorado could be a major player in the sports betting scene, obviously, when it comes back. I guess what’s just your general thoughts on the sports betting scene there in Colorado?
Chris Altruda: I think Colorado has done a good job. I think Colorado is built in terms more like Indiana. It has remote registration. I believe four books were open today, I believe it was FanDuel, DraftKings and two other ones that escape me at the moment. And I also thought that their regulatory agency, the limited gaming control commission did a very good job trying their absolute best to make sure everyone was on as close to equal footing as possible for today’s launch date. While there’s only four that are technically starting on May one, which is the first day it’s available, You are going to see, I would say a very large amount of the outstanding ones be up and running within the first 15 days and then within the first 30 days and then within the first 60 days that they’re going to have, it’s not a mature market, but it’s an available market. And that’s one of the things that makes Indiana so appealing. I mean, even with the pandemic, they still had a handle of almost $90 million in March. Even with having the casino shuttered for half the month because of that online presence.
Rodney Knuppel: Yeah. I think I read where with Colorado and Virginia coming, something like 20% of the country now has legal betting. That number could be a little off. But how soon? I’m talking years here. How soon do you think we’re going to get 50 to 75, are we ever going to get a hundred percent of the country in legal betting? But what’s just your perspective on maybe the rest of the country and maybe where some of them were coming out of?
Chris Altruda: I don’t think we’ll ever get a hundred percent. Of course, Utah will be the lone holdout-
Rodney Knuppel: Sure.
Chris Altruda: Forever and ever because of the Mormon religion. I think you need one of the monstrous states to be the domino that falls. I mean, Florida is in negotiation, at the same time they have to deal with the Seminole tribe. Texas, for whatever reason, does not have gambling, and this has personally perplexed me because if ever there was a market that would just go raise money hand over fist from any market, it’s Texas.
Rodney Knuppel: Oh, yeah.
Chris Altruda: And what makes it even funnier is that literally every border state on Texas has a casino literally right over the state wall. I mean, I drove north after visiting my parents. I drove down there and drove back. I drove over the Red River to Oklahoma. Literally within a half mile, the exit is there and the casino is visible from the freeway.
Rodney Knuppel: Wow.
Chris Altruda: So that’s one area. California has started negotiations again. I don’t exactly know. I mean, and those are timelines that you have to get a lot of people on board. It’s not just a simple majority in those larger states. It has to be a notable majority. It has to be three fifths to maybe knock out a veto, maybe it’s even two thirds. It has to be a threshold where you have momentum. So I don’t know if you get to that tipping point where 50% of the populace has it, and maybe it’s three to five years out. I know the federal government still wants to try and oversee it with the Wire Act, which is another issue because at some point someone will take it to the Supreme Court and try and finagle an opinion that way.
Chris Altruda: So there’s a lot of moving parts to it, I think the piecemeal method by state is still the best method. It’s just the number is going to go incrementally higher. And I think that’s the easier way to see it because the other half of the equation is even if you live in a state that doesn’t have legal sports betting, chances are at this point, we’re in a state that does.
Rodney Knuppel: Right, right.
Chris Altruda: So it’s not a question of what percent of the populace has this, it’s what percent of the population has access to it.
Rodney Knuppel: Right, right.
Chris Altruda: And I think that number is substantially more than the percentage of the populace, which allows for that incremental growth.
Rodney Knuppel: Sure. Yeah. So again, I’m here with Chris Altruda, the sports betting analyst/expert. I like to call him the expert. Chris, I’m to get you out of here in just a minute, but I’m going kind of take a term from our great leader, our president, President Trump, whether we like him or whether we don’t, I’m going to take a term from him here and I’m going to ask you. So when Illinois comes back into play and betting is open and there are games, there are going to be people starving, there’s going to be a large demand, a big great demand for sports betting in Illinois. Do you agree?
Chris Altruda: I think so. I mean, my biggest thing here, living in Chicago, is whether or not people in the Southeast suburbs are going to be willing to go across town to Rivers as opposed to simply crossing the state line and making a bet in Indiana. That to me right now is the most fascinating push and pull of this. And the sooner Bet Rivers has that mobile app available, the better off they are. And whether you have to register in person will be an issue that somebody will blow a Saturday to do. But I think there is definitely going to be a pent up market for it. I mean, even going on the first day there to cover the opening, people were moving at those kiosks at a brisk rate.
Chris Altruda: The book, the actual book area was full. I mean, again, first day. So yeah, there’s a curiosity factor. And that’s one of the good things about it. If there is a good thing about being shut down a week into it. You’re still going to have that curiosity factor when sports resume. People are going to say, “You know what? Let’s go there for a Saturday and see what it looks like.” And then you get the numbers to register and all that stuff. And then if the mobile app is available quick enough after that registration and sticks in your mind, then you have that customer. But yeah, I do agree there will be a pent up market.
Rodney Knuppel: And I guess I have one more additional question then, Chris, for you. So couldn’t Rivers be working on that app during this time? I mean, what would be stopping them from, from working on that during the shutdown?
Chris Altruda: No, there’s nothing that prevents them from working. I mean more than anything else, it’s each company that promotes a piece of that app puzzle. The geo fencing with GeoComply, the Rush Street Interactive with the actual app itself and the unique features to it. Based on the fact that everything is approved, that leads me to believe that the app itself is close to completion. That they’re probably just in testing mode and whether or not it’s an alpha or beta testing mode is something that we don’t know because that’s trade industry and if you asked them about it they’ll just laugh at you politely and say, “No, we’re not going to tell you that.” And like I said, I think releasing the app I think depends more on the volume of availability of sports. I mean, you’re not going to come back on, hypothetical argument, [Dave 00:20:15] . Let’s say July 1st, casino’s reopen. I don’t think that Rivers is going to say on July 1st that oh yes, by the way we have this Bet River’s app when you only have maybe the NBA is back or maybe the NHL is back.
Rodney Knuppel: Right.
Chris Altruda: In fact, I think you’re going to see them wait until there’s a viable amount of options to make the app worth the consumers. While yeah,
Rodney Knuppel: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Makes a lot of sense. Well Chris, I appreciate your time. Great insight. And obviously, I always try to get to your articles as soon as I can. I’ll admit, I have the articles on notification, especially when they come about Illinois. So I appreciate that. I know our readers and our listeners love your insight from Illinois. So keep up the good work and I much appreciate having you on the show and hopefully we can get you back here when some sports get started.
Chris Altruda: Sounds good. I appreciate you making time for me today, Rodney.
Rodney Knuppel: Yep, that is Chris Altruda. This as the Knup Sports Podcast. Thanks for tuning in and we will see you next time right here on the Knup Sports Podcast.
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