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 the Illinois Gaming Expansion bill, 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.
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. However, the Internet Gaming Act was introduced on Feb. 19, 2021, which, if it passes, could bring online casino gaming to the state.
The bill states that people must initially register in person for an online sports betting account.
You can also register at one of the state’s eight retail sportsbooks at the following Illinois casino/OTB sites:
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.
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.
Here’s a list of 10 Illinois casinos that are currently operating:
There is also a retail sportsbook at Hawthorne Race Course, in partnership with PointsBet Sportsbook, and FanDuel operates at FanDuel Sportsbook & Horse Racing (formerly known as Fairmount Park).
There are also three horse racetracks in Illinois:
The Sports Wagering Act allows for casinos to be built in specific regions. Those are:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.