In June, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law a legislative bill that legalizes sports betting in the state. But it isn't clear when the first sportsbooks in Illinois will open.
Sports gamblers who reside relatively close to Illinois' northwestern border — and Wisconsin's southwestern border — there's no longer a reason to wait. Well, for those who want to wager legally, anyway.
Sports betting in Iowa commenced last week. Initially, six Iowa casinos have been licensed to accept bets.
Most of those sportsbooks opened for business Thursday. Among them was one at the Isle Casino in Bettendorf, about a 90-minute drive from Peoria on Interstate 74.
The two casinos closest to Wisconsin in Dubuque — Diamond Jo and Q — are expected to have their sportsbooks running by Labor Day weekend.
Over the weekend, Nick in the Morning found ourselves on the western flank of our bailiwick. Not far from Berwick. Or Cameron. Or Greenbush.
OK, not far from Galesburg and Monmouth, if those other hamlets are too small for your compass.
None of those places is far from Burlington, Iowa, home of Catfish Bend Casino. We had heard Catfish Bend was among Iowa casinos equipped for sports gambling.
Since we were in the neighborhood, we figured we'd drive across the Mississippi River and check it out.
Alas, disappointment awaited once we arrived at the P'Zazz Entertainment Complex, which includes Catfish Bend as well as the FunCity resort.
("Burlington" and "fun city" aren't often heard in the same sentence, you must admit, but it's a nice complex.)
In a room located between FunCity and the casino, the PointsBet sportsbook was open. All 44 television monitors were tuned to various sports events. A fully stocked bar was hopping.
But no wagers were being accepted.
Unlike the Isle and other Iowa casinos, this one didn't open Thursday. Instead, PointsBet was scheduled to begin accepting wagers at noon today.
Story of our lives. And here we were just itching to plunk a sawbuck on the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series. After the horrible road trips they've been having, the odds of that happening must be getting more and more unlikely.
A friendly PointsBet employee asked us if we wanted to sign up for their mobile app, which enables wagering from smartphones. The only catch is the bets have to be placed in Iowa.
It's tempting to be able to throw down money on the Chicago Bulls as we cruise along I-80, past the self-proclaimed World's Largest Truckstop in Walcott. But we declined.
The sportsbook itself isn't as massive as some of the ones found in Las Vegas. At 5,500 square feet, this isn't a carbon copy of the Mirage sportsbook on a Saturday afternoon during college football season.
But it isn't too shabby.
Padded armchairs with drink holders provide a comfortable place to sit, sip and watch. Drinks are plentiful and priced reasonably.
Should the sports action ever become boring, or should those winnings be burning a hole in your pocket, there are a couple of blackjack tables and some slot machines in the room, too.
Burlington is about as distant from Peoria as Bettendorf is. Legal sports gamblers will have to make that trip at least until Illinois sports betting begins.
Whenever that happens.
An Illinois Gaming Board meeting last week in Chicago apparently failed to advance the ball all that far, so to speak. The legislation also called for six new casinos and more video-gaming terminals, so it's complicated, as things usually are in the Land of Lincoln.
(And the gas is cheaper over there, too. We paid $2.29 a gallon in Burlington, 50 cents less than the price was in Peoria.)
Don't expect Illinois casinos, including the Par-A-Dice in East Peoria, to offer sports wagering before the start of the NFL season. It commences Sept. 5, when the Chicago Bears play the Green Bay Packers.
That means the big bucks Illinois could have retained on NFL betting will flow to Iowa and Indiana, where on Sept. 4 a sportsbook is to open at the Horseshoe in Hammond, which is adjacent to Chicago.
But we'll probably return soon to Burlington, if only to claim our big prize from the Lotto America Iowa Lottery ticket we purchased while filling our gas tank.
We won a grand total of $2. But lumber yards from matchsticks grow. Or something like that.
We sensed an omen from the song heard on the way to work. Perhaps we have more than a feeling that the Bears will make it to the Super Bowl this year. Or maybe that's just early-morning indigestion.