What Is The Illinois Lottery Sports Wagering Pilot Program?

Posted By Joe Boozell on May 26, 2021

Somewhat of an afterthought included in the Sports Wagering Act a few years ago was the lottery sports wagering pilot program.

If you’ve never heard of such a thing, it’s because the program hasn’t materialized in Illinois. We’ll get to “why” soon, but obviously, this section of the Illinois bill hasn’t played out how lawmakers planned.

If the current version of the bill ever comes to fruition in the Land of Lincoln, it’s, at the very least, something everyone in Illinois will notice. Regardless of whether or not you are a sports bettor.

Here’s a breakdown of what the lottery sports wagering program is and what it could be.

Program would include ‘sports lottery terminals’

Per the Sports Wagering Act, there could be up to 5,000 sports lottery terminals across the state.

At these terminals, you would be able to place sports bets. There is a catch, though: You would only be able to place parlays at these terminals. That plays with the “lottery” aspect of the program.

There are no restrictions on the placement of the terminals. So, in theory, these could even end up in major sporting venues.

The terminals would be run by a “central system provider” or, in other words, a sportsbook. Operators would deposit tax revenues into the State Lottery Fund.

Where are sports lottery terminals?

Obviously, there are currently no sports lottery terminals in the state.

That’s because, in all likelihood, nobody has bid on the license.

The license costs $20 million, a much higher figure than current Illinois sports betting operators paid to get into the market. There is also no mobile component.

Furthermore, because this is a new concept, it would be difficult for any company to project how these terminals would perform. Given that and the $20 million price tag, it’s easy to see why operators wouldn’t be jumping at the chance to run the sports lottery program.

Possible amendments to the sports lottery program

Which brings us to a new development: Earlier this year, there was a proposed amendment to the Sports Wagering Act that would lower the $20 million fee to $10 million. It has since been re-referred to Assignments.

The amendment signals an effort to make the license more enticing and feasible for a prospective operator.

There is also a House amendment that would change the program quite a bit, HB 4087.

Most notably, the bill would include lottery games and sports wagering at the terminals. In the current version of the law, those two are separate.

The bill authors would also remove the parlays only” stipulation and instead allowing for any sports wager to be placed.

Finally, it would revise the acceptable locations from “anywhere” to “only at retail lottery locations.” This amendment would drastically reduce the number of terminals across the state.

There is not much time left this legislative session, and lawmakers have plenty of gaming issues already on their plates. It will be interesting to see if the sports lottery program gets any attention.

What other gaming issues will lawmakers discuss?

In addition to the sports lottery program, lawmakers are also discussing a bevy of gaming issues this session.

Online casino, the in-state college betting ban and in-person sports betting registration are all hot topics.

Though as time winds down in the session, immediate changes look less and less likely. Notably, there is a new amendment that may signal good news for online casino’s future in Illinois, but bad news for its chances of passing this session.

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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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