Illinois Gambling Expansion

What you need to know about sports betting, casino, VGTs and OTBs

The Illinois gambling expansion bill that Gov. JB Pritzker signed in 2019 is the gift that keeps on giving. Legal sports betting is currently live in Illinois, and additional retail casinos are in the future.

Sports betting is among the many gaming options available to Illinois bettors. Currently, there are 10 retail casinos within the state, and thousands of video gaming terminals (VGTs) at truck stops, bars, etc.

Thanks to bill SB 690, six more casinos can be built in Illinois, including a mega-casino in downtown Chicago.

Here’s what you need to know to gamble in Illinois legally.

Is gambling legal in Illinois?

Yes, Pritzker signed the Sports Wagering Act in June 2019. It includes:

The Sports Wagering Act did not include the legalization of online casino or online poker. The bill states that people must register in person for an online sports betting account during the first 18 months that a sports betting operator is live. However, that mostly hasn’t been the case because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pritzker has issued executive orders allowing for mobile registration due to public health concerns.

Where can I bet on sports in Illinois?

As previously mentioned, you can place sports bets online at DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, BetRivers or William Hill sportsbooks. As of now, mobile registration for a sports betting account in Illinois is permitted. But Pritzker could reverse that policy at any time.

You can also place them at one of the state’s eight retail sportsbooks located at the following Illinois casinos:

  1. Argosy Casino, Alton
  2. DraftKings at Casino Queen, East St. Louis (DraftKings)
  3. Grand Victoria Casino, Elgin (William Hill)
  4. Hawthorne Race Course, Stickney (PointsBet)
  5. Hollywood Casino, Aurora
  6. Hollywood Casino, Joliet
  7. Par-A-Dice Casino, East Peoria (FanDuel)
  8. Rivers Casino, Des Plaines (BetRivers)

We also know of at least four more retail locations that will offer sports betting eventually. Wrigley Field will open up a retail sportsbook in a partnership with DraftKings, which should launch in 2022.

PointsBet, in addition to the Hawthorne Race Course location, will open up three OTB sportsbooks. Those will be located in Crestwood, Oak Brook and Prospect Heights. Look for those to open in late 2020 or early 2021.

How much revenue does sports betting bring to Illinois?

In August, Illinois posted $140 million in handle, and sportsbooks made about $7.2 million in revenue.

That was in an environment where in-person registration was in place for most of the month, and BetRivers was the only online sportsbook easily accessible for the full 31 days.

Therefore, both of those numbers should jump in September and beyond. Going forward, don’t be surprised to see at least $250 million in handle per month. That would come out to about $13 million in revenue, assuming a similar hold percentage from August.

Where can I gambling in Illinois?

Here’s a list of 10 Illinois casinos that are currently operating:

  1. Argosy Casino, Alton (has a retail sportsbook)
  2. DraftKings at Casino Queen, East St. Louis (has a retail sportsbook)
  3. Grand Victoria Casino, Elgin (has a retail sportsbook)
  4. Harrah’s Casino, Joliet
  5. Harrah’s Metropolis
  6. Hollywood Casino, Aurora (has a retail sportsbook)
  7. Hollywood Casino & Hotel, Joliet (has a retail sportsbook)
  8. Jumer’s Casino & Hotel, Rock Island
  9. Par-A-Dice Casino, East Peoria (has a retail sportsbook)
  10. Rivers Casino, Des Plaines (has a retail sportsbook)

There is also a retail sportsbook at Hawthorne Race Course, in partnership with PointsBet Sportsbook.

There are also three horse racetracks in Illinois:

  1. Arlington International Racecourse, Arlington Heights
  2. Fairmount Park Racetrack, Collinsville
  3. Hawthorne Race Course, Stickney

Where are the proposed casinos in Illinois?

The Sports Wagering Act allows for casinos to be built in specific regions. Those are:

  • Chicago
  • Danville
  • Rockford
  • South Suburbs
  • Waukegan
  • Williamson County

There aren’t any imminent plans for the Chicago location (more on that soon). But here’s a list of applicants for the other five regions.

  • 815 Entertainment LLC (Hard Rock Casino Rockford): Rockford applicant
  • CDI-RSG Waukegan LLC (Rivers Waukegan Casino): Waukegan applicant
  • Full House Resorts Inc.: Waukegan applicant
  • Lakeside Casino LLC (North Point Casino): Waukegan applicant
  • South Suburban Development LLC: Matteson applicant
  • Southland Ho-Chunk Entertainment LLC: Lynwood applicant
  • Southland Live LLC (Southland Live Casino): Calumet City applicant
  • Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort LLC: Williamson County applicant
  • Wilmorite Management Group: Danville applicant
  • Wind Creek IL LLC: Homewood/East Hazel Crest applicant

Applicants who don’t fall under one of the six regions mentioned above are vying for the south suburban license.

When will these licenses be granted? That’s been the topic of some confusion. These entities applied back in October 2019, and the decision deadline is Oct. 28, 2020.

However, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) has some wiggle room there.

IGB spokesperson Gene O’Shea cited the following section of  P.A. 101-31 to PlayIllinois in September.

If the IGB does not issue the licenses within that time period, the statute requires the IGB to submit a written explanation to the applicant explaining why the IGB has not reached a determination and when it reasonably expects to do so.

With all of that said, there is a special IGB meeting scheduled for Oct. 29, 2020.

This will be addressed in some form. Either the licenses will be granted at that meeting, or the board will announce a delay.

Where will the Chicago mega-casino be located?

We don’t have that exact answer yet, but we have an idea of where city and gaming officials are looking.

In January 2020, Mayor Lori Lightfoot suggested five casino locations. They are:

  • Harborside
  • Michael Reese
  • Pershing and State
  • Roosevelt and Kostner
  • US Steel

These locations are all on the south or west sides of the city.

Lightfoot insists that the list is not exhaustive, and industry experts believe these would be some of the least profitable areas.

They’ve pushed for a location closer to, or in the heart of downtown.

On Aug. 27, the city of Chicago issued a request for information (RFI) to solicit creative ideas for its downtown casino project.

The location will directly impact revenue, according to experts, which is key here. Because a Chicago casino has the potential to drive huge profits.

In the summer of 2019, a state-mandated consultant said that a centrally located casino could bring in $1.2 billion per year. That’s almost triple Illinois‘ most profitable casino right now, which is Rivers.

We don’t know how big a Chicago casino would be yet, as that’s largely dependent on location. But such a project would create thousands of jobs, provide entertainment for tourists and locals, and generate tax revenue for the state and Cook County.

How much tax revenue will these new casinos create?

At full implementation, legislators project that Illinois can rake in anywhere from $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion in one-time costs from bids on new casinos. That’s $200 million to $300 million per available license.

After that, they predict that recurring yearly revenues from slot machines and table games would reach close to $190 million.

That doesn’t account for retail sports betting, which could juice that total as well.

What about video gaming in Illinois?

There are also thousands of video gaming terminals (VGTs) scattered across the state. The bill SB 690 also helped expand video gaming in Illinois. Licensed locations are now allowed six VGTs, instead of five. The maximum bet at each machine also increased from $2 to $4. The bill increases taxes on video gaming from 30% to 33%. According to Capitol Fax, video gaming could bring in about $40 million in state tax revenue per year.

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