Gov. J.B. Pritzker helped get the bill over the line, so there’s no doubt that he will sign it and then sports betting will be legal again in Illinois.
Of course it’s not that simple, so to get up to speed with what to expect, when it will all happen and who will be involved, read on.
When will legal Illinois sports betting begin?
Once the Governor signs the bill there are several preliminary stages before sports betting can begin:
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) must produce rules and regulations which will take 60-90 days
There must be a public comment period on the regulations
After finalizing the rules operators must apply for master licenses
Then there will be a pre-launch test period
The new law itself specifies that operators that want a license must pay the fees by July 1, 2020. That implies an expectation that the preliminary stages could take a year to complete.
Iowahas just passed its own sports betting law and it expects to have sports betting live in time for the football season which starts in September.
Illinois is unlikely to be competing with its neighbor on that timetable, so a launch date sometime in or before Summer 2020 looks reasonable.
What will Illinois sports betting look like?
The stakeholders in Illinois sports betting all appear in the final law. Their interests have shaped a law that is actually quite complicated.
Sports betting will be licensed at the following venues:
Casinos and racetracks
Sports venues with a capacity of over 17,000
The lottery vendors won’t be regulated by the IGB, but by the Illinois Lottery. They will only offer “parlay wagers and fixed odds parlay wagers.”
Bets can be placed at terminals in up to 2,500 lottery shops in the first year, with the possibility to expand this to 5,000 in year two.
Casinos and racetracks can apply for a license at the bargain price of $10 million, or 5 percent of their revenues—whichever is the lower.
Sports venues will pay the same price for a license that permits them to offer live and online sports betting within a five block radius of the stadium.
Over and above these licenses there are three available for online-only providers. These cost $20 million each, without the option.
The casinos and racetracks can also offer online sports betting. Illinois has avoided demanding that bettors sign-up for accounts in person. Since around 80 percent of sports betting now goes online, that will help get market traction right from the off.
Apart from the basic sports betting at the lottery sites, sports betting offer will be hi-tech and very up-to date.
The licensees will partner with technology platforms and international brands to deliver their sports betting offer. Those new to sports betting as well as old hands will find that modern sports betting is much more entertaining than it used to be.
In-game betting is a major attraction
Even bettors used to betting at illegal offshore sites will welcome the new opportunities for in-game betting.
In-game bets are played after a sporting event begins. No longer do bets close at the start of play.
Modern real-time data feeds allow operators to rapidly re-calculate odds. This means that during a game players can bet on the final score, who will win, what the score will be at the end of the quarter and even which player will score next.
Each operator offers its own range of in-game bets and sports fans can use them to add entertainment value while they are watching a match, or to reduce the risks of the bets they made pre-game.
If a customer bets on his or her team to win and the game starts to go the wrong way, in-game betting offers the opportunity to place another bet to hedge the risk of the first bet going wrong.
Other popular bet types
Illinois law states that:
“Sports wagering” includes, but is not limited to, single-game bets, teaser bets, parlays, over-under, moneyline, pools, exchange wagering, in-game wagering, in-play bets, proposition bets, and straight bets.”
The most popular bet types that will be on offer when sports betting starts are:
Moneyline bets—Beginners often start with moneyline bets. These are simple bets on which team will win a match.
Over-Under bets—You don’t need to care which team will win with an over-under or totals bet. This is a bet on whether the combined score of both teams will be more or less than a number, the line, set by the bookmaker.
Spread bets—In a spread bet, you bet on whether your team will score more or less than the number set by the bookmaker. The favorite team has points over the line. the underdog has points under the line. If the favorite wins by more than the number of points above the line the spread is covered and you win, and vice versa.
Parlay bet—Parlay bets provide some the best entertainment for your dollar. In a parlay bet you link several bets together e.g. bets on the winners of six matches taking place in one day. To win the bet you must predict all six winners correctly. In parlays you can win a lot of money for a small bet, but the odds are against you.
Futures—Much of the entertainment value of sports betting comes from anticipating results a long way in advance. Who will win next year’s Super Bowl? Which baseball player will hit the most home runs in the season? A futures bet is one you make on an even where the outcome will not be known for some time.
What does Illinois’s new sports betting law say?
The new law creates six license categories covering the different participants in the sports betting industry:
Master sports wagering
Management services provider
Tier 2 official league data provider
Central system provider
On top of the license fees mentioned above, the renewal fee after four years is $1 million. The tax rate is 15 percent which is lower than feared.
Pennsylvaniahas even higher fees and taxes and all its licensed casinos bought licenses for either sports betting or online gaming. That experience suggest that most if not all of Illinois casinos will follow suit.
The law also mandates the use of official data for sports betting. This is a differentiator, but as the main sports data providers like SportRadar can apply for licenses should not reduce the number of sports on which you can bet.
State college sports are excluded for sports betting. This is becoming a common feature of new legislation.
One of the contentious issues in the debate around the legislation was whether fantasy sports providers FanDueland DraftKingswould be allowed to take part.
Both continued to offer daily fantasy sports in Illinois even after the state attorney general gave his opinion that it was illegal.
In the end the legislators compromised and there is language in the bill that effectively means they can’t enter the market for the first 18 months.
Who is allowed to operate sportsbooks in Illinois?
The three categories for master license holders mean that the following entities are eligible to apply for licenses:
East St. Louis
Hollywood Casino Aurora
Grand Victoria Casino Elgin
Hollywood Casino Joliet
Argosy’s Alton Belle Casino
Jumer’s Casino & Hotel
Venues with capacities over 17,000 are:
Gateway Motorsports Park
Guaranteed Rate Field
Route 66 Raceway
Only seven licenses are available for sports venues so not all of these will enter the market.
Which casinos will apply for licenses?
It’s a fair bet that every casino will apply for licenses even at the $10 million price point.
All three racetracks are expected to apply, and at least five of the eligible sports venues.
It is too early to predict the eventual shape of the market but it looks like there will be plenty of competition.
The casinos need partners to provide the sports betting technology, and in other states this means that many international brands appear in the market.
Illinois demands that the casino or sports venue brand is primary, but you are likely to see the technology provider brand displayed as well.
Caesars Entertainment owns Harrah’s Joliet and Harrah’s Metropolis. It is merging with Eldorado Resorts. Between them the two have sports betting partnerships with The Stars Group (which uses the BetStarsbrand), William Hill and Scientific Games.
Illinois state sports betting FAQ
How old do I have to be to place a legal sports bet?
You have to be over 21 to make sports bets in Illinois.
Can I place bets on my account when I am outside the state?
No, you have to be within state borders to place your bets.
Do I have to live in Illinois to bet?
No, you can open an account even if you are just visiting the state. As soon as you cross the state line you won’t be able to place any more bets—the geo-location technology is extremely accurate.
What do I do if I am currently using an offshore account?
As soon as legal sports betting launches there is no point continuing to bet at an illegal offshore site where you have no legal protection.
Switch to a legal site and check out the difference. The legal sites are much better than the offshore sites.
Will online poker and casino games be available?
Sadly only online sports betting is legal in Illinois.
DraftKings is one of the biggest fantasy sports sites for a reason. With few exceptions, no other site can offer Illinois players a more comprehensive arena to pit their skills against others.
There is so much flexibility in how you play. If you live in Illinois, you have to give DraftKings a shot.
Updated as of June 6, 2019:
Illinois sports betting will soon be a thing. On June 4, the Illinois Senate finally approved a bill to legalize wagering on sports after two days of an extended legislative session. The House approved the measure one day earlier.
The bill is now sitting on Gov. J.B. Pritzker‘s desk, awaiting his signature. Unlike some of his contemporaries in other states, all signs point to Pritzker signing the bill into law very soon.
The bill provides for all casinos, racetracks, and sports venues to have the ability to offer sports betting. Both retail and online wagering will be permitted, although patrons must sign up in person for their online access.
A timeline for launch is hard to predict. Illinois will have to come up with a suitable regulatory scheme for the practice. However, there’s little doubt that the permitted facilities will work as quickly as possible to open their locations.
There’s no word on online casinos or poker yet. Right now, all the attention is on the brand-new baby–sports betting–and its success or failure could push lawmakers one way or the other on these issues.
Mostly, no. Online slot play is not really allowed in the state just yet.
For right now, the legislative focus in the state is on sports betting. However, a successful rollout there could (no promises) make the situation more friendly for online gambling.
At this point, the only option for Illinois residents is Chumba Casino. The sweepstakes site does permit play from Illinois and has several slot games available in its dual-currency system.
What are the chances that we get full-fledged Illinois online casinos?
Decent, but not right away. Illinois is obviously not hostile to gambling, per se–after all, there are 10 land-based casinos in the state.
However, the opportunity for revenue in sports betting has all the attention right now. So, it could be a few years before online casinos pop up in the Land of Lincoln.
I heard that New Jersey has legal online casinos. Can I play at those from Illinois?
No. New Jersey online casinos are strictly available for New Jersey residents and visitors.
Every New Jersey site employs geolocation software to assist them in ensuring only instate people can play. Sites face heavy fines and other sanctions if they violate this rule, so even players just across the border are blocked.
I see casinos accepting Illinois players when I Google the topic. Should I trust them?
Not really. These casinos are offshore properties that function outside of the American legal system.
Because of this, American players would have no recourse in American courtrooms to deal with disputes. Any quarrels over banking or accessibility would be subject to authorities with much less power and influence.
So, it’s possible to play these sites without incident. However, PlayUSA cannot, in good conscience, recommend you do so.
Illinois Online Sports Betting FAQ
I thought the Supreme Court made sports betting legal. So why can’t I bet on sports in Illinois yet?
It is true that the Supreme Court dismissed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, in May 2018. However, the decision did not make sports betting legal.
What it actually did was allow the states to decide for themselves whether they wanted legal sports betting. So, each state had to pass its own legislation to that effect.
When will Illinois legalize sports betting?
The good news is that Illinois has sent a passed bill to legalize to its governor’s desk. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has indicated that he plans to sign the bill, so it’s extremely likely that sports betting will be coming to Illinois sometime in the next 12 months.
Should I just bet with one of these online sportsbooks I see all of the time?
PlayUSA feels the same way about these that it does about offshore online casinos. In short, we cannot recommend you put money with these sites.
These sites are offshore entities that do not answer to the American legal system. So, they have neither the same requirements nor the same remedies available should something go wrong.
The truth is that players need not put so much on the site that they could not afford to lose. Although it is unlikely to be a problem, there’s no reason to take a chance.
Can I play fantasy sports for real money in Illinois?
In fact, there is no law on the books that certifies DFS as a legal activity. In practice, it’s such a low priority on the enforcement scale that some people play for years without issue.
What Gambling Is Legal In Illinois?
Illinois’ history with legal gambling stretches back farther than one might imagine. The state was actually the second in the country to legalize riverboat casinos after Louisiana, doing so in 1990.
The first casino – the Argosy Alton Belle (now Casino Argosy Alton) – opened its doors for business in 1991. As of 2019, there are ten casinos active in the state.
Grand Victoria Casino
Hollywood Casino Aurora
Hollywood Casino Joliet
Argosy Casino Alton
Jumer’s Casino Rock Island
Par-a-Dice Hotel Casino
The state also passed the Video Gaming Act in 2009. This law allowed for the placement of video lottery terminals (VLTs) in retail locations.
VLTs are mostly indistinguishable from slot machines, and as of 2016, there were more than 24,000 machines in 5,600 locations. There are also more than 11,000 slot machines in the casinos themselves.
Finally, there are three horseracing tracks located in Illinois. They are:
In 2016, Illinois passed an amendment to the Illinois Horse Racing Act. The amendment allowed the three horse tracks to open certain numbers of off-track betting locations. Specifically, Arlington Park may open 18 facilities, Fairmount Park 9, and Hawthorne 16.
For right now, there are not any online casinos present in Illinois. There is a great deal of gambling expansion going on in the state right now, but mobile casino wagering is not part of this wave.
So, the only option for Illinois bettors right now is Chumba Casino. The sweepstakes site is available in most states due to its unique offering.
The dual-currency system is home to over 50 slot games. There are plenty of great options to win on Chumba.
Illinois Online Poker Sites
Like the situation with online slot play, there are not too many options for Illinois poker players who wish to play online poker.
The only viable option, at this point, is Global Poker. Global Poker is the sister site to Chumba Casino and operates using the same dual-currency system.
By doing so, Global Poker is classified as a sweepstakes site and remains in compliance with US law. So, Illinois players can play on Global with no worry about legality.
Illinois Online Lottery
Illinois has been home to an online lottery since 2012. Illinois residents and visitors can purchase tickets, play games, and even redeem winners entirely via their mobile devices.
The online lottery came into being as the result of amendment to the Illinois Lottery Law in 2009. The program began selling Powerball and Mega Millions tickets in March 2012.
In addition to purchasing options for the lottery drawings themselves, Illinois players can also play instant games (aka virtual scratch-off games) on the Illinois Lottery app. These games range in price from $1 to $30 in order to play.
Wins up to $600 immediately go back into players’ accounts. Lottery commission officials must verify any larger wins.
However, Illinois’ iLottery is certainly one of the more robust of its kind in the US.
Illinois Fantasy Sports Sites
Technically, there is no law to allow fantasy sports play in Illinois.
However, the state’s lax approach to any kind of enforcement has emboldened most of the major operators to proceed with business there. As a result, Illinois is a state with de facto fantasy sports service.
The following companies are all active within the state:
Given that the Illinois legislature just passed a bill to allow bona fide sports betting in the state, it seems unlikely that a new wave of enforcement would be on its way down to fantasy sports. More or less, Illinois players can play in peace.
Illinois Online Horse Betting
With three horse tracks and more than 20 off-track betting locations, it’s no surprise that Illinois is amenable to online horse betting. Indeed, residents of the Land of Lincoln have access to most major operators that accept mobile parimutuel wagers.
The three most predominant sites all accept players from Illinois. They are:
Other sites likely accept Illinois player as well. However, make sure to check each site’s terms of service before attempting to proceed.
Illinois Online Sports Betting
Illinois has sent a sports betting bill to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk. It would seem that Illinois will see the debut of sportsbooks sometime soon, possibly within in the next six months.
However, one question looms in this bill: does it include online sports betting? The short answer is yes, it does.
The amendment attached to S 690 allows for casinos, racetracks, and sports venues to offer sports betting–both in-person and online. So, potentially, there could be more than 10 online sportsbooks in Illinois in the future.
The only wrinkle for the online sports betting provision is that there will be a requirement to register for an account in-person…at least, temporarily. Illinois patrons will have to sign up personally for the first 18 months.
A brief history of Illinois gambling
One might think that with the somewhat sordid history of organized crime in Illinois and its connections to gambling, it is a natural fit for the state’s identity and character.
Illinois’ foray into casino gambling is somewhat unique. Its legal status is almost completely confined to riverboat gambling. In a sense, this specificity of law is very much of its time – riverboat gambling flourished in the Midwest in the mid-1990s as one of the first movements of casinos outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. So, the presence of casinos in Illinois is a historical marker along with providing an opportunity for gamblers to pursue their games in the Land of Lincoln.
The Riverboat Gambling Act of 1990 made it legal to open a casino…provided it was on a riverboat, sitting on water. (Today, 10 of these exist with over 9,000 slot options and approximately 500 table games spread among them.)
The first casino opened in Alton (a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri) in September 1991. Since that time, nine other riverboats have opened in Illinois. At first, all of them had to be serviceable boats, but later amendments to the law now allow the boats to merely float on water. (Even to the point where some are merely sitting on a small pool of water.)
Further expansion with the Video Gaming Act
Gambling expanded dramatically in Illinois in 2009 with the passage of the Video Gaming Act. The act allowed a large swath of types of businesses – bars, truck stops, restaurants, and certain community organizations — to place up to five video lottery terminals inside their premises.
VLTs look like slot machines but connect to a main server. They are legal extensions of the state lottery. In 2016, there were 5,600 establishments in Illinois that offered (collectively) over 24,000 slot machines. These are in addition to 11,000 slots offered at the 10 riverboats in the state.
There are also three horseracing tracks active in the state right now. In turn, those tracks operate 24 off-track betting locations.