Illinois Gambling and Sports Betting News

The latest on Illinois gambling, sports betting, lottery and more.

Legal sports betting has finally arrived in Illinois!

BetRivers Sportsbook in Des Plaines took the first-ever legal sports wager in the state on March 9. BetRivers also made history as the first online sportsbook in the state, launching on June 18.

The unique circumstances that led to the launch of BetRivers resulted from Gov. JB Pritzker suspending the in-person registration requirement in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. However, he rescinded that order in July, meaning sports bettors in Illinois will need to register in-person at a casino before they can use an online sportsbook app.

Even with the in-person registration requirement, sportsbooks are starting to launch across the state, including DraftKings and William Hill.

The license-application process began in Illinois on Dec. 19, 2019, which the Illinois Gaming Board oversees. Applications are open to casinos, racetracks, stadiums, lottery vendors, and standalone mobile operators.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed bill SB 690 into law on June 28, 2019. This bill not only set up a licensing framework for sportsbooks, but it also expanded the number of casinos and gambling terminals.

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Legal Gambling Options in Illinois

Online Sports Betting

Currently, there is only one online sportsbook operational in Illinois. BetRivers launched in June 2020 thanks to an executive order from the governor.

Casinos, lottery outlets, stadiums, and racetracks can apply for licenses, along with three online-only licenses.

We expect other brands like FOX Bet, FanDuel, and DraftKings to offer sports betting via apps and online. However, the online market is a fluid situation because of COVID-19, so some operators may wait until online operations launch for good.

You’ll be able to bet on pro sports and college games (as long as those college games occur outside of the state). As well as all the popular single match and parlay bets, new forms of sports betting will be available online. These include in-play betting on live events and cash-out betting.

Online Lottery

The Illinois Lottery has been running since 1974. Today, you’ll find regular in-state draws as well as the big multi-state prizes like the Powerball and Mega Millions.

Unusually, you can buy lottery tickets online in Illinois. Instant-play games are available, many of which are themed.

Examples include Deal or No Deal and games featuring local sports teams.

The IL Lottery has several charitable funds that support children, veterans, and infrastructure.

Retail Sports Betting

Racetracks, casinos and off-track betting (OTB) offices will be among the venues to host retail sportsbooks in Illinois. The first Illinois sportsbooks opened doors on March 9 but closed them less than two weeks later in the wake of COVID-19.

We expect many to partner with operators, like William Hill and FanDuel, to run retail sportsbooks once casinos get open and running again.

The sportsbooks will likely feature multiple screens that showcase the latest odds and the games live. You’ll be able to bet while enjoying the bar and restaurant facilities in many sportsbook venues.

With online licenses awarded to the venues, you’ll be able to deposit cash into your mobile betting accounts, too.

Daily Fantasy Sports

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) contests run in Illinois, despite this being a contentious legal area.

Major sites, including FanDuel and DraftKings, offering real money picks. Both operators are currently fighting an opinion from the attorney general that DFS contests are illegal gambling.

There have been attempts to regulate and license DFS contests over the last few years, though bills haven’t managed to make it through the legislative process.

Live and Online Casinos

Illinois will likely witness an increase in the number of land-based casinos, including a new venue in Chicago as well as five others.

Currently, 10 Illinois casinos offer slots, table games and some also offer poker.

Bill SB 690 did not allow for regulated online casinos in Illinois.

The only legal online options are at casinos using sweepstakes gambling laws. These sites operate countrywide and use a virtual currency called “sweeps cash.”

Live and Online Poker Rooms

There are two types of live poker in Illinois.

Many of the major casinos offer poker games, including the Harrah’s venues, Hollywood Casino and the Grand Victoria Casino. The other sites are charity poker rooms.

Illinois hosts many significant poker tournament events, including the World Series of Poker circuit, as well as locally run festivals.

Bill SB 690 didn’t include any provision for online poker.

The only legal online poker option is Global Poker, which operates under sweepstakes gambling rules.

Illinois Gambling FAQ

Is gambling legal in Illinois?

Yes, casinos, horse racing, lottery gambling and charitable gambling have been legal in Illinois for many years.

More recently, bill SB 690 adds online and retail sports betting to this list. Gov. Pritzker signed this bill in June of 2019. The licensing process is under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Gaming Board.

The first batch of sportsbooks went live starting in May 2020.

This bill will increase the number of brick-and-mortar casinos by six, including one in Chicago. The number of gambling machines in the state will also increase.

Will online casinos open in Illinois, too?

No, bill SB 690 didn’t include a provision for online casino games.

The only options for online casino games are the nationwide sites that operate legally in the state under sweepstakes gambling laws. Brands include Chumba Casino and LuckyLand Slots.

If online sports betting is a success and contributes substantial revenues to the state coffers, we might see an online casino bill in the future.

Will online poker launch in Illinois?

No, as with casino games, online poker was not included in the current legislation. There is a sweepstakes site (Global Poker) that will legally offer online poker games in Illinois.

Are offshore sportsbooks legal or safe?

No, depositing at offshore sportsbooks is a major risk. With legal and regulated online sports betting now available in Illinois, there isn’t any need to risk your money this way.

These books are based in small nations in the Caribbean or Central America, where there is little oversight. You won’t have anyone to turn to if you have nonpayment or other dispute.

With legal IL sports betting, you’ll have a lot of advantages.

These include regular deposit options (following in-person registration) like credit cards or bank transfers, the best odds and range of bets, plus the security of the Illinois Gaming Board to turn to should you need them.

Compare this will need to deposit using bitcoin or expensive prepaid vouchers offshore, and you’ll quickly realize that legal sports betting is the safest option.

What is the legal gambling age in Illinois?

You must be 21 years or older to place a bet legally in Illinois.

What can I bet on in Illinois?

Most forms of gambling are available in the Prairie State, though not all of them are available online. These include:

  • Casino games and slots at live casinos or sweepstakes gambling sites.
  • Poker at casinos or charity poker rooms or via sweepstakes gambling.
  • Sports betting online or at retail venues (excluding bets on college sports that happen in-state).
  • Lottery games include Illinois-only draws, multi-state draws, scratch cards and online games.
  • Horse racing bets via the pari-mutuel pools, live and online.
  • DFS contests run in IL, though these are the topic of legal challenges.

There are also bingo and draws allowed under charitable gambling regulations.


How to download a sports betting app

Your first task is to choose from the major brand online sportsbooks that are coming to Illinois.

You can take advantage of the free bets and matched welcome bonuses at several of them to see which interface you like the best.

You can access online sportsbooks in two ways.

First, you can use your web browser, which works on both desktops (or laptops).

Secondly, you can access your favorite sportsbook via your mobile device. For the best mobile experience, downloading an app is the way to go.

The IL sportsbooks will detect your device and automatically offer you the right type of download:

  • Apple Devices: If you go to a betting website via your iPhone or iPad, you’ll be directed to the Apple App Store to complete the sportsbook app download.
  • Android Devices: Since Google doesn’t allow any gambling apps, you’ll need to download the sports betting app from the sportsbook website instead. On some devices, you’ll need to update your settings to allow downloads from “unknown sources.”

Note that some sports betting apps require additional geolocation detection to know that you are within state lines before you place a bet.

How to sign up to an online betting account

All the sports betting brands need your individual information when you register an account.

You’ll find the ways the sites collect this varies a little. When you first visit a website, hit the sign-up button and follow the prompts.

The betting site will ask you to provide a screen name, your email address, date of birth, address, telephone number and the last four digits of your Social Security number.

ID documents aren’t typically a part of the request, though you might be asked for them if you require additional security screening.

The final stage is to verify at the retail sportsbook associated with your brand. This requirement will expire in two years when the first mobile-only licenses are made available.

How to fund your sportsbook account?

Unlike shady offshore sportsbooks, you’ll be able to fund your Illinois gambling account using the same options you use to make online purchases.

You’ll be able to deposit and withdraw safely using any of the following options:

  • Credit or Debit Cards: All sportsbooks will welcome Visa and Mastercard; you will also be able to use Discover or Amex at selected brands.
  • Prepaid Debit Cards: In other states, major operators, like DraftKings, have created branded prepaid cards. You fund these from your bank (or regular card) and can then keep your gambling bankroll and regular spending separated.
  • Bank Transfers Using ACH: This type of local transfer is also known as e-checks. You can get additional verification, which speeds this up.
  • Bill Pay: Treat sports betting as a utility bill, using bill pay at major banks only.
  • Bank Wires: This method has more significant charges than ACH, though many people who deposit substantial sums of cash use it. Some books accept cashier’s checks and money orders.
  • PayPal: This popular e-wallet lets you keep your bank and online merchants and sportsbooks separate. Alternative brands, including Skrill and Neteller, are available.
  • Cash Payment Options: You can take cash to the casino cage (when you complete your registration) or use a commercial service like PayNearMe.

Note that legal sportsbooks will ask you to use the same method you used to deposit funds to withdraw (where this is possible), which helps control fraud and money laundering.

Retail sportsbooks in Illinois

All of the tribal and riverboat casinos in Illinois can apply for a sports betting license.

There are also off-track betting offices that may expand to include full sportsbooks, plus seven stadiums, one racetrack and lottery retail outlets. Until the licensing process wraps up in early 2020, we do not know the complete list.

Here are the 10 Illinois casinos that we expect to be the first wave of retail sportsbooks:

  • Casino Queen, East St. Louis
  • Harrah’s Casino, Joliet
  • Harrah’s Casino, Metropolis
  • Hollywood Casino, Aurora
  • Hollywood Casino, Joliet
  • Grand Victoria Casino, Elgin
  • Argosy Casino, Alton
  • Rivers Casino, Des Plaines
  • Par-a-Dice Hotel Casino, East Peoria
  • Jumer’s Casino & Hotel, Rock Island

Responsible gambling

Responsible gambling programs include all the protections and assistance for those who develop issues with their gaming habits.

Online sportsbooks provide additional tools and assistance to balance the ease of access. While most people gamble for fun and do so safely and responsibly, a small percentage of people have issues.

Responsible gambling features include:

  • Advice on what constitutes problem gambling (a self-assessment quiz).
  • A list of charities’ telephone numbers and websites that offer help.
  • Tools to manage bet and deposit amounts, and time spent on the gambling site.
  • Tools to take a timeout or completely self-exclude.
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