Tijuana-Based Caliente Digital Wins Rights To Online-Only Sports Betting License In Illinois

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At a meeting of the Illinois Gaming Board on Thursday, Caliente Interactive won approval for an open online-only sports betting license. Should the company pass muster in the typical regulatory approval process, the company could launch its “CaliPlay” brand as the state’s newest sportsbook.

Caliente Interactive was the “lone winning bidder” for a rare online-only sports betting license, according to Chris Sieroty of VIXIO Gambling Compliance. Fubo Gaming failed to qualify, while an unnamed third company withdrew its application. Illinois law allows for 23 total sports betting licenses, but only three are classified as online or “mobile-only”. Those licenses have a $20 million fee.

First Mexican Sportsbook In The U.S.?

Based in Tijuana, Caliente Interactive is one of the oldest sports gaming companies in Mexico. Its licensure in Illinois would mark the first appearance of a sportsbook from that country in the United States.

The company was founded in 1916 as an operator of casinos. The CaliPlay sportsbook brand has launched in Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela, as well as in Austria.

Illinois’ Sports Betting Market

Illinois legalized sports betting in 2020. In March of 2022, the requirement for in-person registration was lifted, a move that has spiked activity in the sports betting market. Sports bettors in Illinois can now register their accounts with mobile sportsbooks online.

Currently, Illinois’s sports betting market includes BetMGM, BetRivers, Caesars Sportsbook Illinois, DraftKings, FanDuel, and PointsBet, and a handful of other operators.

Originally, Illinois gaming laws stated the issuance of online-only sports betting licenses would signal the end of in-person registration. But after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the sports betting market significantly, the state (led by Governor J.B. Pritzker) removed the im-person registration in a separate bill. Existing sportsbooks operating in the state under the original requirement of in-person registration were allowed to transition into online/retail hybrid operators.

However, the three online-only licenses remained available, giving opportunities to other sports betting operators in the Land of  Lincoln which are not required to partner with a licensee like a brick-and-mortar casino or race track.

Some assumed that Fubo Gaming Inc., which operates Fubo Sportsbook in Arizona and Iowa, would get access to an online-only sports betting license in Illinois. In February, Fubo received approval for a license in Tennessee. Fubo Sportsbook is unique in that its app is paired with its FuboTV product, allowing registered users to access odds and make wagers on sporting events while viewing them through their TV subscription.

The selection of Caliente Interactive, which has yet to launch and prove successful in the U.S., is an interesting decision by the IGB. According to an agenda for Thursday’s meeting available on the IGB website, the board planned to reveal the applicants for the online-only licenses, but apparently only Caliente Interactive and Fubo Sportsbook were identified, with a third operator withdrawing, according to Sieroty. No timetable was revealed as to when Caliente Interactive might be approved for the license, should they be.

About the Author

Dan Holmes

Writer and Contributor
Dan Holmes has written three books about sports. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He enjoys writing, running, and lemon bars. He lives near Lake Michigan with his daughters and usually has an orange cream soda nearby.

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