Legal sports betting touched down in Illinois in March 2020, but timing was not fortuitous. The COVID-19 pandemic ground things to a halt almost immediately after they began. A small collection of brick-and-mortar sportsbooks were open less than one week before Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered the closure of casinos statewide.
The silver lining for Illinois sports bettors is that online, remote registration has been available on and off since early June as a result of these unique circumstances. More on that below. Illinois residents (and visitors) already have, or will have access to a handful of the nation’s leading online sportsbooks including BetMGM, BetRivers and William Hill. DFS-turned-sportsbook giants FanDuel and DraftKings have also joined in — and a lot sooner than originally intended or expected.
This page will review in detail the status of legal online sports betting in Illinois, and what sports bettors in the Land of Lincoln can expect in the future.
Bet on sports online in Illinois now
Legal online sportsbooks in Illinois: They’re here!
Online sports betting began in Illinois on June 18, 2020, when Rivers Casino went live through BetRivers. The timetable for online sports betting was both accelerated and thrown into disarray when Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-41 on June 4, waiving the requirement for a person to physically appear at a casino/sportsbook to establish access to a mobile sports betting account. As a result, patrons were able to register for online/mobile accounts from mobile devices or computers rather than at a casino — until late July when the order lapsed.
But then on Aug. 20, Pritzker reinstated the executive order, allowing bettors to once again open accounts without having to venture into public spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The order has been renewed multiple times and is currently in effect through at least Dec. 12, 2020, at which time the governor could again renew it or let it lapse.
Here’s a look at the current Illinois brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and the expected/projected online sportsbooks they will offer:
|Online Sportsbooks||Status||Casino/Track||Retail book launch|
|BetRivers||Live||Rivers Casino||March 2020|
|FanDuel ||Pending||Fairmount Park||TBD|
|DraftKings||Live||DraftKings at Casino Queen||August 2020|
|William Hill||Live||Grand Victoria||August 2020|
|BetMGM (Speculated)||Live||Par-A-Dice||August 2020|
|PointsBet||Live||Hawthorne Race Course||September 2020|
|Penn National/Barstool (Expected)||Pending||The Argosy||March 2020|
|Barstool (Expected)||Pending||Hollywood (Aurora)||August 2020|
|Barstool (Expected)||Pending||Hollywood (Joliet)||August 2020|
|William Hill (Expected)||Pending||Harrah’s Metropolis||TBD|
|William Hill (Expected)||Pending||Harrah’s Joliet||TBD|
|Bally’s Bets (Expected)||Pending||Jumer’s||TBD|
Two racetracks in Illinois have been awarded sports betting licenses, Hawthorne Race Course and Fairmount Park. The third, Arlington Park, withdrew its application in August because parent company Churchill Downs Inc. is a majority stake owner in nearby Rivers Casino.
Hawthorne was the first to be approved for a sports wagering license in July and began taking mobile bets Sept. 12 and retail wagers Sept. 30.
Fairmount Park was granted its license Oct. 29, and FanDuel announced Nov. 16 it will be transferring its sports wagering license to the Collinsville track located near the Illinois-Missouri border and St. Louis metropolitan area. It will also be renamed FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing.
Both Hawthorne and Fairmount will offer sports betting at the track, at three OTBs each (the maximum allowed by law), and via digital platforms. Hawthorne is partnered with PointsBet Sportsbook and Fairmount has a deal with FanDuel.
Registering an Illinois sports betting account
With mandatory in-person registration currently suspended via Executive Order 2020-41, there’s a window that Illinois bettors will want to take advantage of. Right now it is possible to sign up over the internet with any of the active online sportsbooks in the state – check the table above for the complete list.
In-person registration is also still available at brick-and-mortar casino partners. Remember, registration is only good for that specific sportsbook operator. New accounts are required for each online sportsbook.
When registering, bettors will have to provide their name, home address, date of birth, and the last four digits of their Social Security number as part of the age/identity verification process.
The legal age for gambling in Illinois, be it casino or sports betting, is 21. It is 18 for horse racing, which may cause logistical issues down the road. While Hawthorne is already accepting sports wagers both retail and online, there is no timetable when FanDuel will launch operations at the Collinsville horse racing track. FanDuel, though, is expected to have both retail and mobile betting available there upon launch.
Physical location boundaries
Illinois online sportsbook operators utilize geolocation security technology, similar to other states that have legalized online sports betting. The quality of these geolocation services is important since Illinois is bordered by two states, Indiana and Iowa, that also have online sports betting. A third, Kentucky, has sports betting in the legislative pipeline.
The bettor does not have to be an Illinois resident to place a wager, but simply in the state at the time the bet is placed. A strong WiFi signal or cellular service provider should be enough for the geolocation tracker to confirm the point of origin, though being close to a bordering state could lead to occasional confusion.
Aside from age and physical location requirements, Illinois law also has a specified list of people who are not permitted to place wagers in the state. Additionally, the IGB has the authority to ban bettors or allow them to be placed on a self-exclusion list. Those lists exist as a safety mechanism to help individuals protect themselves from problem gambling.
In terms of betting options, the law defines a “sports event” as: A professional sport or athletic event, a collegiate sport or athletic event, a motor race event, or any other event or competition of relative skill authorized by the Board. While this appears to give sportsbooks wide latitude in terms of offerings, some events such as eSports or one-off events require special approval from the state’s gaming board for wagering to be legal.
Deposits and Withdrawals
After registering your account, the next step is to deposit money. As with other states, Illinois has multiple options available to bettors that are both quick and convenient when it comes to accessing money.
Banking options will include:
- Credit/Debit Cards
- ACH/e-Checks (ACH)
- Online banking via online credentials with your bank.
- Cash deposits at physical locations
- Wire transfers
New patrons should acquaint themselves with the “Welcome Bonus” promotions that most sportsbooks offer upon sign-up. Check the tables above on this page for the top IL sportsbook bonuses. These include matched bets, risk-free bets, matched deposits, and bonus money. Most promotions include a specific code to be entered at the time of deposit in order to access the offer, and they are usually available exclusively for new customers.
Land-based casinos and future online sportsbooks
While the capital bill that legalized sports betting allows for the creation of six new casinos across the state, including one in downtown Chicago and as many as three racinos statewide, there are plenty of existing options across the Land of Lincoln. There are 10 casinos in Illinois that are eligible for a Master Sports Wagering license, and seven were granted licenses in June.
Illinois allows only one mobile skin per entity, which means each casino can have only a single online/mobile partner. Even with five mobile operators established, there are still a number of potential brick-and-mortar gaming venues and the three stand-alone online/mobile licenses available for any of the following operators to join the fray in Illinois. That list includes:
- Bally’s Corporation
- Barstool Sportsbook
- Circa Sports
- FOX Bet
- Golden Nugget
Types of wagers
Illinois offers bettors a full menu of wagering options, including:
- Futures bets
- In-game betting
- Moneyline bets
- Spread bets
- Player Prop bets
- Totals (over/under)
- Other options
Who are Illinois’ home sports teams
Home to the third-largest city in the United States in Chicago, as well as being the fifth-largest state overall in terms of population, Illinois is well represented in all major sports. The Cubs (MLB) are no longer baseball’s lovable losers after their 2016 World Series title, and vie for Windy City bragging rights with the White Sox on an annual basis.
The Bears (NFL) continue to be one of the biggest calling cards in the state in terms of overall fandom, and the recent success of the Blackhawks (NHL) – winners of three Stanley Cup titles since 2010 – has lifted the profile of hockey in Illinois. While Michael Jordan may be long gone, the Bulls (NBA) still fill the United Center.
The Fire (MLS) recently moved back into Soldier Field and share space with the Bears, while the Sky (WNBA) play at Wintrust Arena, a 10,387-seat arena in downtown that opened in 2017. The Red Stars (NWSL) took up residence at SeatGeek Stadium in suburban Bridgeview after the Fire relocated within the city.
In terms of college sports, Illinois law prohibits betting on local college teams, which means no betting on Northwestern football or Illinois and DePaul basketball. Wagers can be placed on college teams or events not in Illinois, so Notre Dame, among others, would be fair game.
Laws and regulations
The United States banned all sports wagering except for some small grandfathered markets in 1992 through the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). In 2012, the state of New Jersey filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the bill, and after a lengthy legal battle, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the act in a ruling on May 14, 2018.
For sports betting to finally arrive in Illinois, there was much in the way of negotiations and horse trading. Representatives Bob Rita and Mike Zalewski were the primary proponents of sports betting and were met with challenges throughout the legislative process.
The bill includes a lot of fine detail, including a mandate for the use of “official league data,” a provision requiring in-person registration for 18 months, a ban on betting on Illinois colleges, and complicated branding rules that required clarification from the regulatory board.
All told, there are up to 23 master licenses available when including sports venues. There are only three mobile-only licenses available, and each comes with a $20 million price tag. Those will be up for bidding after a “Request for Proposal” sometime in 2022.
Master licenses for other venues — casinos, horse racetracks and pro sports venues — are set at $10 million.
The tax rate on adjusted gross revenues is 15%, which is on the upper end of what operators consider reasonable when compared to other states. In the case of Cook County, there is an additional 2% tax on AGR – which is a nod to the earning potential of a downtown casino in Chicago as well as Rivers’ status as the top retail casino in the state.
More background on IL betting law, politics
Legalizing online betting in Illinois was always going to be a drawn-out process, even after Pritzker signed SB690 into law in June 2019. Included in the bill is a provision creating a 540-day waiting period for online-only operators to submit their applications for consideration to the Illinois Gaming Board after the first Master Sports Wagering license was issued (June 2020).
This provision was considered to be a “penalty box” for online giants FanDuel and DraftKings, who in 2015 were ruled to have illegally operated daily fantasy sports contests in Illinois, according to the state’s attorney general. The waiting period – which Rivers Casino owner Neil Bluhm wanted to be three years, before Pritzker and fellow Illinois lawmakers negotiated it down to 18 months — was designed to allow retail sportsbooks the opportunity to bring their mobile apps to market and establish themselves before DraftKings and FanDuel entered the picture.
In the first year after Pritzker signed the $12 billion capital bill that legalized sports betting, the state’s regulatory agency took a deliberate approach. Even when the first sports wager was legally accepted at Rivers Casino on March 9, that 540-day clock had not started because all seven casinos that were approved had only temporary operating permits. And of those seven, only two were given provisional approval to accept bets.
Everything, though, changed due to COVID-19. Sensing the need for the casinos to have a revenue stream while either closed or operating at less than 100% capacity, Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-41 into law June 4, 2020, which suspended the in-person registration requirement to obtain a mobile sports betting app. The Executive Order was allowed to expire in late July, but reinstated on Aug. 21 and renewed on three consecutive occasions.
The week after the executive order was first in place, there was a flurry of activity in which the seven casinos that had permits were granted sports betting licenses the following week, finally starting the 540-day clock for online-only applications.
DraftKings and FanDuel find a way
Despite strong efforts to slow them down, DraftKings and FanDuel were not deterred. DraftKings reached a partnership agreement with the Casino Queen-East St. Louis, now known as the DraftKings at Casino Queen, and was the second online sportsbook to launch in the state. FanDuel reached a similar co-branding deal with Par-A-Dice Casino after the application process to enter via Fairmount Park was not progressing at a pace to its liking. FanDuel announced in November that it has plans to transfer its retail and mobile sportsbook operators to the Fairmount Park, which was licensed in late October.
History of gambling in Illinois
The first association of sports wagering and Illinois immediately recalls the “Black Sox” scandal of 1919 in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. While the eight were publicly acquitted in trials in 1921, then-Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned them from baseball. The banning of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson remains a point of contention since it also included banishment from consideration to the Hall of Fame.
Another legendary Chicago gangster, Al Capone, was reported to have run sportsbooks during the prohibition era and owned a dog-racing track called the Hawthorne Kennel Club.
On a positive note, Illinois can lay claim to the inventor of the point spread. Charles K. McNeil, a former bank securities analyst, developed a formula to rate football teams in the 1940s and estimated by how many points a favorite would defeat an underdog. While McNeil called it “wholesaling odds” at the time, it later became known as the point spread and revolutionized the sports betting industry, putting it more in line with what we know today.
Room for growth
Illinois is already well-situated with 10 existing casinos and recognized its growth potential in the capital gaming bill by giving horse racing tracks the potential to add racinos and sportsbooks to the mix. Additionally, Pritzker’s Executive Order accelerated the timetable for online sports wagering in the state.
Tack on the likelihood of sportsbooks at iconic venues such as Wrigley Field and the United Center, plus potential casinos in downtown Chicago and locations across northern Illinois that can draw from the Wisconsin market, and the Land of Lincoln is poised to leave behind the “sleeping giant” moniker.