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Illinois passed a sports betting bill in Spring 2019. SB 690 was signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on June 28 of that year, paving the way for a 2020 roll-out.
Technically speaking, retail sports betting began in Illinois in March 2020. It was interrupted almost immediately, however, due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 outbreak. It will resume at the same time pandemic-related restrictions lift and casino gambling begins again. In the meantime, the state’s first sports betting app launched on June 18, 2020.
Now, the state’s casinos are open again, and so, too, are its retail sportsbooks. Half a dozen brands now operate in the state, with more to come.
At the moment, all sportsbooks are associated with retail casino properties and require in-person registration. That requirement will lapse later this year, and up to three online-only brands will be able to launch at that time.
On March 9, 2020, Illinois became the 15th state to begin legal sports betting. The timing of the launch was intended to allow residents to bet on the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the least opportune moment possible. Within a week, virtually all professional and collegiate sports events had been cancelled or put on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Seven retail sportsbooks were expected to open in March 2020, but ultimately only two did. The remainder put their plans on hold. Each can apply to run an online sportsbook, as well, and BetRivers went live with the first such app in June 2020.
Illinois law offers many locations the opportunity to offer sports betting; at least in theory. In practice, however, the enormous fees required to obtain a license will likely mean that not every eligible venue seizes that opportunity.
Illinois is among those states that have an in-person registration requirement for online betting. But the rule is suspended during the pandemic – for as long as the state of emergency is in effect and casinos remain shuttered. Once the state of emergency is lifted, in-person registration will apply through December 2021.
Eventually, the state will allow up to three online-only operators. These cannot launch until the in-person registration window concludes. Although many operators have found a way around that requirement by convincing their land-based partners to adopt their branding.
The state also plans to have a readily-available, parlay-based sports betting lottery. It will allow 2,500 terminals selling parlay tickets to be set up during the first year, on a trial basis. Assuming all goes well, another 2,500 terminals will be rolled out the following year.
The success of sports betting is also paving the way for online casino and online poker in Illinois. 2021’s Internet Gaming Act failed to advance during the spring legislative session, but may be back in the fall or in future years.
Here are Illinois’ existing retail sportsbooks and potential locations for future sportsbooks.
Online sports betting is legal in Illinois, and the state’s first app launched on June 18, 2020. Casinos and racetracks with a sports betting master license will be allowed to offer betting through mobile apps, as well as at their retail sportsbooks. They will be subject to an in-person registration requirement until December 2021; though this provision has, at times, been temporarily suspended – due to concern about COVID-19.
Sports venues, like stadiums and arenas, are also eligible to have sportsbooks. But they have different rules for online betting. In their case, they will only be able accept mobile bets from within the surrounding five-block radius.
Finally, Illinois will eventually issue master licenses to certain online operators, who will then be able to offer betting without an associated retail sportsbook. However, these licenses will cost $20 million apiece and only three will be issued, in total. What’s more, these operators won’t be able to launch until such time as the in-person registration window concludes, i.e. until the end of 2021.
Here are the apps currently available in Illinois:
Illinois is the home state for Rush Street, which owns and operates the Rivers chain of casinos, as well as the BetRivers online brand.
Despite trying its best to keep DraftKings and FanDuel out of the state, at least temporarily, Rush Street finds itself the third-place operator in Illinois, behind those two.
BetRivers Sportsbook has a first deposit bonus, with a modest $250 maximum. However, it’s known for having one of the fastest apps out there, and a solid loyalty program.
DraftKings Sportsbook is the market leader in Illinois, as of early 2021. The company, which has its origins in the daily fantasy sports space, has a brand that enjoys excellent recognition across the country.
It offers new users a $50 free bet and a first deposit match, with a maximum of $1,000; though you’d have to deposit $5,000 to get the full amount.
Like DraftKings, FanDuel is a nationally recognized brand due to its activities in the daily fantasy sports space. Since 2017, it’s been primarily owned by Flutter, the world’s largest online gambling company. Flutter also owns PokerStars and Fox Bet.
FanDuel Sportsbook is the No. 2 platform in Illinois, as of early 2021. There’s no deposit match available here, but you will get a risk-free first bet up to $1,000.
Caesars launched in 2021 after retiring the William Hill brand, signaling Caesars’ ambitions for growth around the US.
Its welcome bonus is a $5,000 risk-free bet in Illinois. The app is a great choice for beginners, as it provides tons of guides and other documentation to help you learn the ropes.
PointsBet is an Australian company that’s slowly starting to make a name for itself in the US. It’s doing pretty well in Illinois, thanks to its great location at the Hawthorne Racecourse in Chicago. The location makes in-person registration easy for millions of gamblers.
The defining feature of PointsBet Sportsbook is its eponymous Points Betting. This is available for spreads and totals bets, and allows your risk and reward to scale with the margin by which the bet succeeds or fails.
Rather than simply betting $50 that the score of a football game will be over 47, for instance, you might bet $10 per point. Then, if the actual score came out to be 54, you’d win $70; while if it fell short at 45, you’d lose $20.
Barstool is a sports media brand targeting the young male demographic. Casino and sports betting giant Penn National Gaming acquired a controlling interest in the company in January 2020, and established a new sports betting brand to go along with it.
The new brand first launched in Pennsylvania in September 2020, and has since expanded to Michigan and most recently Illinois. Penn owns three casinos in Illinois, but technically Barstool’s partner is the Hollywood Casino Joliet.
The Illinois Gaming Board issued seven temporary licenses for operators looking to go live in March 2020. However, only two of those licensees actually did so before the COVID-19 outbreak caused everything to grind to a halt.
Here are the retail properties in Illinois at which you’ll find active sportsbooks:
Rivers Casino was the first Illinois casino to receive the regulatory go-ahead for its sportsbook. It was also the only one to manage a full launch before the state ordered casinos to close. It’s conveniently located in Des Plaines, a suburb of Chicago to the north of the city’s center.
Its sportsbook operates under the BetRivers brand. There are three other Rivers casinos in the US, all of which already have retail sportsbooks. These are in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, plus Schenectady, New York. Its BetRivers online sportsbook launched on June 18, 2020, and was already available in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Indiana prior to that.
Rivers Casinos are owned by Rush Street Gaming, which uses Kambi to power its sportsbooks, both retail and online. The BetRivers Sportsbook app launched in Illinois in June 2020.
The Casino Queen changed its name to DraftKings at Casino Queen as a means of escaping Illinois’ so-called “penalty box.”
The rule in question was intended to keep companies like DraftKings, FanDuel and Fox Bet out of the market until online-only sports betting became legal. However, DraftKings found this loophole to allow itself to launch alongside its competitors.
Both its retail and online products launched at the same time, on Aug. 5, 2020.
Argosy Casino Alton is one of three Illinois casinos owned by Penn National Gaming, a major force in US sports betting. All three have received temporary master licenses to launch their sportsbooks. Argosy was supposed to be the first, with a grand opening scheduled for March 11, 2020, two days after BetRivers.
Anticipating complications from the COVID-19 outbreak, the riverboat casino elected to postpone the sportsbook’s official launch. However, it still soft launched and took bets for four days prior to the temporary casino shutdown on March 16, 2020. Like the other Illinois casinos, it has since reopened.
The casino is located in the town of Alton, on the Mississippi River, on the far side of the state from Chicago and close to St. Louis.
It should eventually launch an online app, and has chosen Unibet as its partner. There is no confirmed date for that launch, however.
A pair of Hollywood-branded casinos are Penn National‘s other properties in the state. These are both on the outskirts of Chicago, in the towns of Aurora and Joliet. Both applied for sports betting licenses and received temporary permits from the Illinois Gaming Board at the end of February 2020.
Both casinos originally intended to open their sportsbooks in time for March Madness, but ended up not doing so before they were forced to close by pandemic restrictions. They both ended up launching on the same day: Aug. 20, 2020.
For online betting, Penn’s properties are partnered with Barstool Sportsbook, of which Penn is now a majority owner.
Par-a-Dice is owned by Boyd Gaming and located in Peoria. It received a provisional license at the same time as Hollywood Casinos. Provisional license in-hand at the end of February 2020, it didn’t launch its sportsbook before closing.
It finally joined the market on Aug. 24, 2020, launching a FanDuel Sportsbook app. The casino followed this up by opening its retail sportsbook on Sept. 10.
Grand Victoria is a Caesars Entertainment brand and, as such, offers the Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
Illinois requires online sports bettors to register in-person and this retail casino is located in Elgin, another satellite town in the Chicago metropolitan area. It was among the first casinos to receive a license, but didn’t launch its sportsbook before closing for the pandemic.
During the pandemic restriction era, Caesars merged with Eldorado Resorts in 2020. While moot now that Caesars bought William Hill and rebranded the online sportsbooks in August 2021, this casino did have a short-term quandary after the merger.
Although Eldorado held a controlling interest in Caesars, it didn’t have quite the 80% stake Illinois law requires for it to be able to use a Caesars-owned brand for Grand Victoria’s online sportsbook.
Instead, it elected to partner with William Hill as its sportsbook brand. It opened the retail sportsbook first, on Aug. 6, 2020, followed by an online launch just over a month later on Sept. 15, 2020. Less than a year later, the online sportsbook brand is Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
Fairmount Park was the first non-casino property eligible for a sportsbook license to have filed its application.
It went whole-hog with the concept, changing its name to that of its partner, FanDuel Sportsbook, in March 2021. It plans to eventually convert itself into a racino and add other forms of gambling.
Hawthorne Race Course has perhaps the best real estate of any sportsbook in the state, located as it is 20 minutes from downtown Chicago, close to the airport.
It has elected to partner with the Australian company, PointsBet. Together, they launched PointsBet’s mobile app on Sep. 12, 2020, and opened the retail sportsbook later that month.
Aside from those listed above, there are 12 other locations in Illinois which could eventually have sportsbooks. These include four more riverboat casinos, two more racetracks and potentially up to seven sports venues. Check this page periodically to keep up to date on additional license applications and launches.
There will ultimately be three types of mobile sports betting available in Illinois.
First, casinos and racetracks are allowed to have mobile apps associated with their retail sportsbooks. These have an in-person registration requirement for now, but it will expire in December 2021. In the meantime, you’ll have to present yourself at the sportsbook or casino cage, with identification documents, in order to create an account.
Starting this December, the in-person requirement will expire and online-only sportsbooks will be allowed into the state. Companies like DraftKings and FanDuel were expected to enter the state via this route, but found a loophole to launch earlier, with retail partners.
Both these types of apps work similarly once your account is set up. With or without in-person registration, depositing and withdrawing can be done online, using any of the following:
For sportsbooks with a retail location, you can also make cash deposits in-person, at the sportsbook for racetracks, or at the cage for casinos.
The third type of mobile betting will be that provided by sports venues. This will always require in-person registration, even after the launch of online-only sportsbooks. Furthermore, you’ll only be able to place bets using those apps when you’re physically located within five blocks of the arena, field or stadium. These apps are mostly for the use of spectators attending games at the venue, with the intent of reducing lineups for betting, but haven’t rolled out yet due to COVID-19-related restrictions.
Illinois’s sports betting bill is a bit more specific than most states’ when it comes to what constitutes a sport. It explicitly states that only professional sports, motorsports and collegiate sports qualify. Sports-like activities, such as eSports and chess, are probably off of the table.
Betting on horse races was already legal in Illinois, but is kept separate from sports betting. To bet on horses, you’ll need to go to a racetrack or off-track betting parlor, or use an online racebook app. Greyhound racing is illegal in Illinois, so you won’t be able to bet on that either at the racetracks or the sportsbooks.
Some of the popular sports you will be able to bet on include:
Illinois law doesn’t impose any particular restrictions on what types of bets sportsbooks can offer. All of the common options are available, including:
Parlay (AKA accumulator) betting is also permitted, as well as other similar types of combination bets, like round-robins. In fact, parlay betting is an exception to the general prohibition on betting on in-state college teams. You can include such a bet in a parlay, so long as it also includes bets on games that don’t involve an in-state college team.
Yes. You can indulge in this popular form of sports betting while a game is underway.
Because live betting lines typically change from moment to moment, it’s not available to the same extent with retail betting as it is with online apps. However, for popular sports, most retail sportsbooks offer some type of in-play betting, especially when play is stopped for halftime or a commercial break. Types of live bets for which the line can change quickly are generally restricted to online betting.
Unfortunately, you can’t bet on in-state college teams – except as part of a parlay that involves other games, as well. Although this is possible to do with live betting, it kind of deceives the point. In order to make an in-play bet on a college game involving an Illinois team, you’d have to parlay it with some other bet on another game you aren’t watching.
Illinois has taken an unusual approach to generating revenue from sports betting. The tax rate is middle-of-the-road, at 15% of winnings. On the other hand, the up-front licensing fees are enormous, up to $10 or $20 million, depending on the type of license. By contrast, some states have tax rates as low as 6.75%. But others run much higher, such as Pennsylvania – which charges 36%.
The Illinois sports betting bill originally called for a 20% tax rate, but this was subsequently reduced due to objections from potential operators. On the other hand, there is an additional 2% tax imposed for sportsbooks located in Cook County, which is basically synonymous with the city of Chicago and most of its suburbs. For instance, Rivers Casino (BetRivers) and Hawthorne Racetrack (PointsBet) are affected by this tax. However, Chicago-area casinos located in Aurora, Elgin and Joliet are exempt, as these satellite towns lie just outside Cook County.
For casinos, obtaining a license means paying a $250,000 application fee up front, which is already more than the total licensing fee for many other states. Upon approval, the casino must then pay a license fee equal to 5% of its adjusted gross receipts for the preceding year, up to a maximum of $10 million.
For racetracks, the fees are similar, but based on 5% of betting handle. Sports facilities pay a flat $10 million, and internet operators will pay $20 million. In all cases, the renewal fee is $1 million every four years.
These policies mean that Illinois will receive a quick windfall from issuing licenses. However, the high cost of entry will likely limit the number of operators in the state, which could mean less tax revenue that other states with a similar tax rate.
If you’re going to bet, it’s always safer to do so with a legal, regulated operator than an offshore site. In-person registration for online betting is a hassle for now, but the benefits are worth it. Here are some of the ways in which the legal options are a smarter choice:
Here are the short answers for some of the most common questions asked about sports betting in Illinois:
Yes, both online and retail.
Yes. Technically, online-only operators aren’t supposed to launch until December 2021, but DraftKings and FanDuel have found workarounds and are already live.
Eventually, the state could eventually issue up to 23 licenses, broken down as follows:
Once the state chooses an operator to run the sports lottery, 2,500 terminals will be installed at lottery retailers on a trial basis. Another 2,500 will roll out the following year; at which point, more than half of the state’s 8,000-plus retailers will have one. The tickets sold through these terminals will offer standard lines only, and require multiple picks per ticket. These picks form a parlay bet, meaning all must be correct for the ticket to win. The payout will be based on the odds for each individual pick multiplied together.
Prior to the arrival of mobile betting, some retail sportsbooks released apps that allowed bettors to prepare their bets online before finalizing them at the sportsbook. Bettors who’ve prepared their bets in this way need only scan a QR code on their phone, then make their payment. These are still available, but less relevant now that direct betting online is possible.
Illinois sports betting law is similar to other states in this regard. The legal age for betting is 21. Physical presence in the state is a requirement to bet, but residency is not.
Athletes, coaches, etc. are forbidden from betting on sports they’re involved with. Anyone barred from a casino for any reason will also be barred from that casino’s sportsbook. Anyone can request self-exclusion in order to be prevent themselves from betting in the future.
Technically, no. Then-Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion in 2015 declaring them illegal. Attempts to pass DFS legislation have failed. Daily fantasy sports operators are engaged in an ongoing legal battle over this, and all of the major sites still accept players from Illinois in the meantime.
Yes, but it’s separate from sports betting. Illinois sportsbooks cannot legally offer bets on horse races. To participate in that form of betting, you’ll need to go to a racetrack or off-track betting parlor, or use a dedicated racebook app.
Sports betting is regulated by the Illinois Gaming Board, which has offices in Chicago and Springfield.
Illinois has historically been a progressive state for gambling. Unlicensed riverboat casino gambling dates back to the 1800s. They became legal and regulated in 1991, and the laws surrounding them were relaxed in 1999 and again in 2011.
Illinois was also among the first states to establish a ticket-based lottery in 1974, followed by an online lottery in 2001. Starting in 2011, anywhere alcohol is served there can legally be low-stakes video gaming terminals, as well as a broader range of slot machines at racetracks.
Unfortunately, the state has been much less progressive when it comes to online gambling. The first attempt to legalize it in some form came in 2013 as part of a larger gaming expansion bill, S 1739. That bill ultimately passed, but it did so with the online gambling portion amended out of it.
In 2016, an attempt to legalize daily fantasy sports nearly succeeded, despite opposition from the Attorney General. It failed because of a lobbying scandal. Subsequent attempts at online gambling and daily fantasy sports legislation in 2017 and 2018 also failed.
The success of 2019‘s sports betting bill, therefore, represents a significant advancement in gambling in Illinois. For the first few months of the year, it looked destined to fail. It succeeded, however, thanks to a last-ditch effort from Rep. Bob Rita, just as the legislative session was coming to an end on June 2, 2019. It received the governor’s signature later that month.
It then took several months to iron out the rest of the details. The Illinois Gaming Board began taking license applications in December 2019, and issued the first temporary licenses in February 2020. The first retail sportsbook launched a few weeks later, on March 9. The first mobile app followed three months later, on June 18, 2020.