A New Beginning For Illinois Sports Betting: Senate, House Pass Bill That Will Let You Sign Up For A Sportsbook Online And More

Written By Joe Boozell on October 28, 2021 - Last Updated on October 29, 2021

Pending Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature, we finally have a firm end date for in-person sports betting registration.

That is March 5, 2022, as the Senate and House passed HB 3136 on Thursday night. The bill also legalizes wagering on in-state college teams, though there is an in-person betting stipulation.

Thursday was one of the most significant days in the Illinois sports betting industry in years, and it will have major ramifications on the future gaming industry in Illinois.

Here are five ways HB 3136 will affect sports bettors in Illinois.

Illinois should have online sports betting registration by March Madness

Previously, in-person registration only would have ended if the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) handed out a mobile-only license.

But those licenses cost $20 million apiece, and there was real concern that no one was going to bid on them. Therefore, it created a scenario where in-person registration would have been in effect indefinitely.

The amendment, which you can read in full below, adds a firm end date if the trigger doesn’t happen:

This is significant. If there are sports betting apps you would like to sign up for but haven’t already, you will soon be able to do so without visiting a retail sportsbook.

Illinois is the No. 3 sports betting market in the US by handle on a monthly basis. With online registration returning, it could usurp Nevada for second and charge toward $1 billion in monthly handle over the next several years.

You’ll be able to bet on Illinois college teams

It is currently illegal in Illinois to place bets on in-state college teams. HB 3136 changes that.

It should soon be possible to bet on Illinois, Northwestern, DePaul, etc. The kicker, of course, is that you can only legally do so in person.

While it’s an incremental policy step (more on that soon), the truth is, most Illinois sports bettors won’t notice this change in the short term unless you’re regularly frequenting retail sportsbooks at casinos or racetracks.

Either way, it marks a significant shift. Last year, Illinois faced Loyola Chicago in the NCAA Tournament; it was illegal to wager on it in the Land of Lincoln. In 2022, that shouldn’t be the case.

Live betting also will not be allowed — the bill specifies that only pregame wagers will be permitted.

Wintrust Arena can apply for a sports betting license

The 2019 gaming bill allowed for Illinois sporting venues to apply for retail sports betting licenses. However, Wintrust Arena, the home of the reigning WNBA champion Chicago Sky, was left out of the list of venues.

HB 3136 rectifies that. Wintrust Arena can now join Wrigley Field, Guaranteed Rate Field, the United Center, Soldier Field, etc., in applying for a retail sports betting license.

Of course, none of those venues have applied yet. Certain policies in Chicago need to be adopted first, but that should happen in due time.

Sky owner Michael Alter has been adamant about bringing sports betting to Wintrust Arena — so much so that the city fined him $5,000 for lobbying but failing to register.

Eventually, Alter got his way, and Wintrust Arena is now included in the bill.

More online sportsbooks should be on the way

Illinois has been stuck on six online sportsbooks since March 2021. Why? Because it’s extremely difficult for a sportsbook to launch in an in-person registration environment.

The likes of DraftKings, FanDuel, etc., also had seven-plus months to register users remotely during Pritzker’s executive order. Pritzker ended the executive order in April, leaving little incentive for any new sportsbooks to launch.

That should change in March 2022 and beyond. We know that BetMGM, Unibet, theScore Bet, Bally Bet, WynnBet and Golden Nugget would like to offer sports betting in Illinois. The list is probably even longer than that.

Expect to see a new wave of sportsbooks launch in 2022. That means more options for consumers, more promotions, different sets of lines, etc.

We are closer to online betting on college teams

Though the in-person stipulation takes much of the fun out of the betting on IL college teams’ development, we are one step closer toward full legalization.

Rep. Michael Zalewski, who led the way on this policy, confirmed as such to PlayIllinois this summer. The hope is that if in-person betting on Illinois college teams goes smoothly, more lawmakers will be open to expanding the policy online.

Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman is the staunchest opponent to the law, and he apparently has support from enough lawmakers to have sway.

However, most legal US sports betting states allow mobile wagering on their college teams. There is proof of concept in comparable markets, and eventually, Illinoisans should be able to partake.

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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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