Will Illinois Sports Betting Begin In Time For March Madness? Odds Are 50/50

Posted on February 13, 2020 - Last Updated on September 21, 2020

The excitement surrounding online sports betting in Illinois and when it will make its official debut is causing a frenzy amongst casual and expert bettors.

I’d imagine fans of the New Orleans Pelicans had a similar feeling waiting patiently for first-round draft pick Zion Williams to step on the hardwood. But with something so delicate, like Zion and sports betting, you must proceed with caution.

So while three casinos have been granted temporary operating permits, this doesn’t mean sports betting has finally arrived. However, it does mean the necessary steps are being taken to ensure these properties can be the first to begin receiving wagers once the green light is given.

Let the madness begin

March has been designated as the target date for sports betting to launch.

But is it conceivable?

Cory Aronovitz, a seasoned gaming attorney with Casino Law Group in Chicago, IL, is optimistic sports betting can launch in March because these gaming operators have done this in other jurisdictions.

“Managing expectations is crucial, and there is a demand for the product. So, target dates with contingencies are appropriate,” Aronovitz said in an email.

The likely three casinos to launch first are:

  • Argosy Casino Alton – Penn National
  • Grand Victoria Casino Elgin – Eldorado
  • Rivers Casino Des Plaines – Rivers

“These properties all have sports wagering experience, and aside from tweaks for unique aspects of Illinois regulations, the software has been vetted and utilized in other markets,” Aronovitz said.

Other experts on the subject of Illinois sports betting

Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, told Legal Sports Report, “I think you’ll see something up and running before March Madness, at least at these three facilities.”

Sure, it’s possible casinos can be up and running in time for the big dance, but there are still miles of red tape to go through. Properties still need to complete rigorous testing on internal control systems, betting software, and other compliance operations outlined by the emergency rules. That doesn’t happen overnight.

But it appears all the work rests in the hands of the casinos.

According to Joe Miller, director of policy at the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB), “we’ve given them the tools, and now they can finish the job.”

“It’s on [the casinos] on how fast they want to go to become compliant with the rules and offer sports wagering to their customers,” Miller told LSR.

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More gambling, more gambling dollars

Illinois is no stranger to milking gambling dollars from its residents.

The state already has more video gaming terminals (VGT)  than Las Vegas 385,945 to be exact. In 2019, Illinois collected $444,384,459 in taxes from gaming terminals. Municipalities collected a combined $83,833,498, according to a report from the IGB.

The addition of sports betting will only solidity the state as a gambling powerhouse not only in the Midwest but in the country. According to some estimates, the state could record an annual sports betting handle of $5.3 billion by 2023.

To say that IL residents are hungry for sports betting would be an understatement. Residents have been bolting across the border into Indiana to hand over wads of cash in order to place bets. Only time will tell if they can empty their pockets at local casinos in time for March Madness.

Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
Written by
Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago, writing about local politics, and in Washington, D.C., covering the expanding gambling industry. Now back in Chicago, he continues to write about the emerging sports betting market with a focus on the Midwest. Originally from West Texas, he graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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