Illinois officially joined the ever-growing list of legal sports jurisdictions in the U.S. with the launch of BetRivers Sportsbook at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines last month, and by doing so, took the first step in what could be one of the largest sports betting markets in the U.S., according to PlayIllinois.com analysts.

If the Illinois market fully matures—which would have to include the widespread launch of online sports betting—the state could generate from $9 billion to $11 billion in wagers annually and $650 million in operator gross revenue, according to projections from PlayIllinois.com.

“Illinois’ potential is enormous, but it has a long way to go to become a major player relative to the largest markets in the U.S.,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst at PlayIllinois.com. “Launching the industry is obviously a momentous first step. But because of regulatory roadblocks to online sports betting, it will be years before Illinois can enjoy the same kind of boom that we’ve seen in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.”

Illinois became the 15th state to allow legal sports betting. Of those, only New York and Pennsylvania have a larger population from which to draw. And Illinois’ retail sportsbook market is expected to ramp up quickly, with five more expected to open soon, including sportsbooks at Argosy Casino Alton, Hollywood Casino Aurora, Hollywood Casino Joliet, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, and Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in East Peoria. Fairmont Park Racetrack in Collinsville, near St. Louis, has also been approved for a temporary operating permit.

Significant hurdles remain, though, particularly for online sports betting, which isn’t expected to launch until later this year. And when it does launch it will require in-person registration for mobile accounts.

The Illinois law, passed in December, allows for three “stand-alone” mobile operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel. But because of the state’s in-person registration requirement, those would-be operators will not be able to accept a bet for at least 18 months. And with a hefty $20 million fee to obtain one of those three licenses, it’s not clear which operators will apply. 

“Even with the high fees, the appeal of the Illinois market will eventually be too much to resist for the country’s largest operators,” Gouker said.