ALTON, Ill. — The first sports wagering venue in the St. Louis area began operations Thursday, even as major professional sports leagues and amateur groups suspended play amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re going to continue to be here to offer what’s available,” said Steve Peate, vice president and general manager of Argosy Casino Alton in Alton, Illinois.
The riverboat casino opened its sportsbook at 2 p.m. Thursday, earlier than originally expected. The casino, owned by Penn National Gaming (Nasdaq: PENN), originally targeted Monday for its grand opening. A Monday ribbon-cutting event has been postponed.
The casino paired its opening date with the first week of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, however the tournament was canceled Thursday. Peate said Argosy will still operate its sportsbook and has enacted increased sanitary measures to ensure a “germ-free” facility.
The new sports wagering operation is the first in the region to open after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker last year signed legislation that expanded gambling and legalized sports betting. The Alton casino said it relocated about 70 slot machines within the casino to make room for the sportsbook. That remodeling included two areas — the primary wagering area and a place to sit and watch sporting events. The facility includes 36 big screen TVs.
“It doesn’t matter where you sit, you will be able to see any game that is live action going on in the building,” Peate said.
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