Illinois is now officially a sports betting state. The first legal sports wager was made in Illinois in March 2020 at Rivers Casino in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines.
Online sportsbooks launched not long after that, thanks to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker temporarily suspending the in-person registration requirement in the wake of coronavirus. That led to the launch of BetRivers. The in-person registration requirement went back in place in July, but the number of retail and online sportsbooks keeps growing.
In late June 2019, Pritzker signed the Sports Wagering Act into law. The new law permits both retail and online sports betting in Illinois.
Here’s an overview of how sports betting came to be in Illinois along with information about what those looking to make sports wagers in the Land of Lincoln can expect to find.
Updated Aug. 10, 2020
As August begins there are three retail sportsbooks and two online sportsbook in operation in the state. That gives Illinois sports bettors at least a few legal options now that the professional leagues are edging back into action.
Of course, those wishing to use the BetRivers app will once again need to visit Rivers Casino in Des Plaines in person to register an account. In June, Gov. Pritzker had lifted the in-person registration requirement established by Illinois sports betting law. But at the end of July, he rescinded his executive order, thereby putting the requirement back in place.
On the horizon are more online sportsbooks, with both DraftKings and FanDuel ready to enter the state via their land-based partners. Meanwhile, on Aug. 1 the Grand Victoria Casino Elgin accepted its first wager at its new William Hill Sportsbook. That was the state’s third retail sportsbook to open along with the ones at Rivers Casino and Argosy Casino Alton.
And the latest entry to the market did not come without its fair share of controversy and an interesting name change. DraftKings at Four Queens is in East St Louis and hours away from the Chicago area, so it will be fighting an uphill battle with the in-person registration mandate. Nonetheless, it launched on Aug. 8.
Things are heating up for sports betting in Illinois. The Prairie State is now home to both online and retail sportsbooks.
So far, Illinois has seen the launch of two online sportsbooks. Both DraftKings and BetRivers have debuted their products in the state in the past few months.
|Operator||Partner||License Status||Launch Date|
|BetRivers||Rivers Casino||Approved||June 18, 2020|
|DraftKings||Casino Queen||Approved||Aug. 5, 2020|
However, these two sports betting giants will have company soon enough. There is reason to believe that several other big names in sports betting will be coming to Illinois in the near future. They are:
Mobile sports betting might be a curious thing for Illinois sports bettors. After all, if the only experience you’ve had with sports betting has been inside a traditional sportsbook, you might not be comfortable with placing a wager through your smartphone.
However, once you visit one of Illinois’ online books, you’ll discover that they are largely identical and equivalent to any experience you’ve had in retail sportsbooks. In fact, in some ways, they are quite superior.
For one thing, online sports betting features no shortage of bet types for you to choose from. Where a retail book might limit itself to the basic spreads, moneylines, and totals, most online sportsbooks have no such restriction.
In fact, one of the biggest differences between retail and online is the ability for online sportsbooks to offer live, or in-game, wagering on a massive scale. The technology that these books employ allows them to offer betting on microevents throughout each game, such as the outcome of individual plays or the result of the next few minutes of play. It is not uncommon for online sportsbooks to offer more than 100 wagers on a single contest, so there is always something to bet on when you use your device.
Sportsbook apps also have the ability to offer buyouts for open bets that will allow you to realize your profits and guard against any late collapses. A mere button press on your bet slip can trigger the live ticket system on Illinois sportsbook apps and settle a wager, you’ll just have to pay a bit of a premium for the privilege.
Finally, one of the most interesting aspects of mobile sports betting is the sportsbook’s ability to customize its experience and offerings to your needs, rather than simply offering the same thing to everyone. At least one of Illinois’ online offerings, DraftKings, offers a betting carousel that suggests wagers based upon your stated preferences and your betting history, rather than a blanket explosion of wagering opportunities.
Sportsbook apps work on both Apple and Android devices. However, depending on the book in question, the procedure for getting the sportsbook onto your device might be a bit different.
Apple users tend to have an easier time of things, as most online sportsbooks have dedicated Apple apps that download in the same manner as any other type of app. One notable exception to this rule, however, is BetRivers. In order to access BetRivers Sportsbook from your Apple device, you will first need to download and activate GeoGuard, a geolocation verification app that BetRivers needs in order to pinpoint your location inside the state. From there, you can use your web browser to access BetRivers.
Most sportsbooks also feature a dedicated Android app. However, one minor bump in the road for Android users is Google’s prohibition on real-money gaming apps in the Google Play Store. So, in order to circumvent this restriction, players will need to set their devices to accept downloads from unknown sources (if they haven’t already done so). Then, they will need to download the .apk file from the sportsbook itself, and install it from there.
If you are planning to bet on a mobile device, make sure that you have the correct Illinois sports betting app. Although some apps are the same version for several states, some sportsbook operators either choose to or are compelled to offer a state-specific version of their app. Make sure that the app you’re downloading mentions something about accepting Illinois players before you move forward.
One disappointing aspect of playing on an Illinois mobile app is the law’s requirement that players register for their account in-person at the casino or racetrack associated with the player’s chosen sportsbook. This requirement, which slows down the growth of the market, is scheduled to last 18 months from the beginning of sports betting in the state.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker complicated the matter by first rescinding and then reinstating the requirement in summer 2020. In that time, BetRivers had a month to secure as many remote registrations as possible.
As with many things in Illinois, there are some political elements and angles surrounding this decision, but the long and short of it is that you are now required (once again) to register in person at the land-based counterpart of your desired sportsbook app for a mobile sports betting account.
One of the biggest differences between live and mobile is the prevalence of bonuses on the latter. Because the competition is only a few button presses away, online sportsbooks have to work harder in order to keep customers interested, happy, and loyal.
Here are some of the most common types of promotions you’ll encounter at Illinois betting sites:
Sports betting is legal in Illinois, both in retail locations and online. The Illinois Gaming Board regulates sports betting in the state.
Casinos and race tracks can apply for a license to operate sportsbooks. Somewhat unique to Illinois is the fact that sports venues can also open sportsbooks. Stadiums and arenas with a seating capacity of 17,000 or more are eligible to apply for licenses to offers sports betting within a five-block radius. That means Soldier Field, Wrigley Field, and the United Center could all potentially have their own sportsbooks.
Lottery vendors can offer sports betting kiosks as well, separately regulated by the Illinois Lottery.
An Illinois Supreme Court ruling in April 2020 decided that the skill component of daily fantasy sports made the legal in the state. The ruling rejected the Attorney General’s 2015 opinion that DFS was illegal gambling.
As mentioned above, the Illinois sports betting law allows online sportsbooks, but forces them to require users to register for their accounts in person at the partnering retail locations.
Gov. Pritzker lifted the requirement for a short period from June-July 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, though it currently remains in place. The requirement will continue through early 2022 when three online-only or “untethered” sports betting licenses will be issued. After that point, online registration will be permitted.
Allowing remote registration of online sportsbooks accounts tends to enable more users to get accounts and place wagers, thereby increasing both revenue and taxes.
Sports bettors aged 21 or older can bet on professional and collegiate sports in Illinois, as well as on international sporting events. But the law does impose some restrictions on what types of wagers can be made.
Some states allow the following types of bets. However, in Illinois, licensees cannot accept wagers on:
That latter restriction against betting on non-sports events prohibits accepting wagers on events like the Academy Awards (permitted in some states, like neighboring Indiana).
Additionally, there are some limits on the types of betting on college sports. Individual props are not allowed, nor is in-game betting on college events.
A quick Google search virtually anywhere in the United States will reveal the presence of online sportsbooks. These sites seem to be legitimate and say all of the right things, so you might be confused about why these sites aren’t legal.
The truth of the matter is that these sites that you’re seeing are owned and operated by offshore bookmakers. They are not legal sportsbooks, and you should avoid them. Here are some of the reasons why playing offshore is a bad idea:
There are multiple retail sports betting locations open for business in Illinois now. They have been opening as soon as they could since March 2020, and the number of options will only grow in the months ahead. Here are the places you can go to make a wager in the Prairie State:
Argosy Casino Alton was the second casino to launch a sportsbook onsite in Illinois. The casino, which is owned and operated by Penn National Gaming and features a riverboat gaming floor on the Mississippi River, began welcoming sports bettors in March 2020. Due to its location, its main area of service is in and around St. Louis.
The sportsbook itself features individual viewing stations and 36 high-definition, 65-inch television monitors. There are also multiple odds-display monitors and convenient access to the Hops House bar next door.
This sportsbook does not feature an online sportsbook counterpart yet. However, given Penn National’s relationship with multiple online providers in other states, it is unlikely to be without a virtual partner for long.
Rivers Casino Des Plaines is owned and operated by Rush Street Interactive as part of its chain of Rivers-branded casinos. The casino became the first to open a retail sportsbook in Illinois in March 2020.
Unsurprisingly, the retail sportsbook at Rivers Des Plaines features the BetRivers brand for its sportsbook. The location offers players stadium seating, a full bar and an LED display covering an entire wall. Rivers Des Plaines is located just northeast of Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
Rivers Casino Des Plaines is also the land-based partner for the BetRivers Online Sportsbook. Like its retail counterpart, BetRivers Online was the first sportsbook to enter the online space in Illinois, doing so in June 2020.
The Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin became the third Illinois casino to welcome the launch of a retail sportsbook on its premises. The William Hill Sportsbook began taking sports wagers in August 2020 as many major sports resumed playing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The sportsbook itself is relatively unassuming and is located directly on the casino floor at the Grand Victoria. It offers a full-service experience with tasty drinks just steps away at the property’s main bar.
So far, William Hill has remained reticent about its plans for launching an online sports betting app in the Prairie State. Although company officials indicate that plans are afoot, there is no definite timeline for a debut.
The DraftKings Sportsbook at the newly rebranded DraftKings at Casino Queen is the fourth retail sportsbook to open its doors for Illinois residents and visitors. The launch marks one of the only instances in recent memory where a sportsbook partner’s presence led to a rebrand of the entire property.
Nevertheless, players from the St. Louis area and elsewhere are finding out about the top-notch betting that they can undertake across the Mississippi River. As the rebranded property settles into its new persona, more details are sure to follow.
DraftKings launched its online sportsbook in Illinois almost simultaneously. In doing so, it became the second online sportsbook to call the Prairie State home. However, it remains to be seen how profound BetRivers’ time and remote registration advantages will prove to be for DraftKings to capture market share.
The Illinois casino location most likely to launch a retail location in the near future is the Hawthorne Race Course. Its strategic sports betting partner, PointsBet, has been adamant that a launch is forthcoming from the Chicago-area racetrack in the next few weeks. There are only a few more licensing and logistical issues that remain.
According to Illinois law, all of its casinos and racetracks are eligible to host sportsbooks. Although it’s unlikely that all of them will, many of them will join the party sooner or later. In fact, several of them have already received their licenses to operate. So, you could see a sportsbook pop up in relatively short order at the following locations:
In addition to Hawthorne, the state’s two other racetracks have also filed applications for sports betting. They have to be approved, of course, but it’s clear that sports betting is on the horizon at the following venues:
Finally, the Illinois law that legalized sports betting also included one of the quirkiest rules about what types of venues are allowed to host sports betting. In addition to the two groups above and some lottery vendors, sports venues with seating greater than 17,000 also gained the ability to host their own sportsbooks.
Although there are no applications on file with the state just yet, the following facilities would qualify under the law to host a sportsbook:
The Illinois bill that legalized sports betting in the state-mandated tax on sports betting revenue, no matter whether it comes from land-based or online sports betting. After all, from the state’s point of view, the collection of taxes from the new activity is the whole purpose of legalizing it.
Although there was much debate in the Illinois General Assembly about exactly how much to tax sports betting, the final version of S 690 settled on an across-the-board tax rate of 15%, regardless of the format in which the betting took place.
Illinois sports betting is overseen by the Illinois Gaming Board. The board publishes revenue numbers for all gambling in the state on a monthly basis.
Unfortunately, the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have pushed the reporting for sports betting down the list of priorities for now. Even though sports betting has been active since March 2020, the state agency has yet to report any revenue figures for the state’s sportsbooks.
We will update this section as information becomes available.
No Illinois professional sports teams have specifically partnered with a sports betting partner just yet. However, given the fact that seven venues in the state can open their own sportsbooks legally, this fact is unlikely to remain true.
As it stands, most of the leagues to which Illinois’ professional sports teams belong have multiple sports betting partnerships already in place. As such, the teams will likely have branding from those partnerships in some regard at their venues.
Illinois is home to eight major professional sports franchises. All of them are based in Chicago, due to its population and prominence.
Illinois has been the home of several great sports teams in history. Here is a brief rundown of the franchises that call the Prairie State home.
Considerable argument and legal wrangling preceded that first sports wager in Illinois. Discussions continued afterwards as well, as interested parties further debated how sports betting would be implemented in the state.
Illinois lawmakers began 2018 with sports betting on the radar. In January, Rep. Lou Lang proposed the first of what would be five different sports betting bills that year, the Legalization and Regulation of Sports Betting Act. The other four bills appeared by March, including one from Sen. Napoleon Harris called the Sports Wagering Act.
Harris’ bill would permit both retail and online sports betting with the state receiving 12.5% of the revenue collected. Harris, a former NFL linebacker, also included a requirement for sportsbooks to pay a so-called “integrity fee” to professional sports leagues seeking such.
None of these bills made it to a vote. However, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in May 2018 to lift the federal ban on states offering sports betting sparked interest for Illinois to take up sports betting in earnest the following year.
With Gov. Pritzker voicing his support of legalizing sports betting, lawmakers began introducing legislation once more to start 2019.
Rep. Mike Zalewski put forward a placeholder bill, also called the Sports Wagering Act, and it received several hearings. The bill was also reworked several times with multiple amendments before finally being combined with other legislation. Ultimately it appeared with a larger casino expansion bill, with Rep. Bob Rita and Sen. Terry Link becoming the lead sponsors.
The legislation would allow the state’s 10 existing casinos, three race tracks, sports venues with capacities of 17,000 or more, and lottery vendors to operate both retail and online sportsbooks. The bill also authorized the construction of new casinos in the state, including one in downtown Chicago.
That set the stage for a dramatic finish as the end-of-May legislative session deadline approached.
The state’s casinos weren’t happy with the combining of sports betting and the larger expansion bill. There was debate over daily fantasy sports as well, with Rep. Zalewski introducing language to force DFS sites that had previously served Illinois to sit out for a period of time once new legislation was signed into law. That obviously didn’t please DraftKings or FanDuel, as their lobbyist made known. Ultimately representatives from both companies would testify at an Illinois hearing to make their case.
With just days before the deadline and multiple caucuses (and other entities) all continuing to voice input, the bill’s passage remained in doubt. There were more subcommittee hearings for which Sen. Rita was chair. Rep. Zalewski had stepped aside, doing so after attention was drawn to his being a lawyer for different gambling companies and how that might constitute a conflict of interest.
Ultimately sports betting legislation (as part of the larger gaming package) was included in Gov. Pritzker’s $41 billion capital improvements plan. A compromise with DraftKings and FanDuel enabled them to be part of sports betting from the beginning but restricted them initially to operate only as partners with existing casinos.
After 18 months, three additional online-only licenses would become available, each costing $20 million to obtain. With reference to DraftKings and FanDuel, the year-and-a-half delay became known as the “penalty box” where online-only operators had to wait.
Meanwhile, casinos could obtain sports betting licenses for $10 million for four years and thereafter renewed annually for $1 million per year. The tax revenue rate was 15%. Among other provisions was a requirement for sportsbooks to use official league data for live betting, although there were no integrity fees.
Also of note, those wanting to use online sportsbooks would have to register their accounts in person at the partnering casino, at least for the first 18 months after which the three online-only sportsbooks would be able to launch. Many proponents of online sports betting found that provision troublesome, as the in-person registration requirement would certainly limit the amount of revenue online sportsbooks could earn.
The casinos were pleased. DraftKings and FanDuel weren’t wholly satisfied. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was opposed to sports betting taking place at stadiums in proximity to the new Chicago casino provided for in the gaming package. The Illinois Gaming Board opposed the bill. Boyd Gaming and Penn National Gaming also were not in favor of its final form. But now that sports betting had been folded into a larger capital bill that was likely to pass, the legislation was in a relatively secure spot to do so.
Ultimately the House voted in favor of the capital bill 82-27, and two days later the Senate passed it as well by a 46-10 margin. Gov. Pritzker signed the bill into law on June 28, 2019, and sports betting in Illinois was legal.
The Illinois Gaming Board next had to create regulations for the implementation of the Sports Wagering Act. The IGB’s dissatisfaction with the legislation prompted them to include in their process a 30-day public comment period ending in late September.
Neighboring states Indiana and Iowa had both legalized sports betting just before Illinois (in May). Both states were able to finalize regulations and launch sportsbooks before the start of the 2019 NFL season. However, Illinois wasn’t going to be part of the sports betting picture for a while.
With the first phase of its Emergency Sports Wagering Rules in place, in November the IGB announced that applications for sports betting licenses would become available the following month. On December 19 regulators announced that the first phase of the application process had begun, with a second one covering operational guidelines to come early in 2020.
In late January 2020, the IGB approved the second phase of its emergency rules. The new guidelines included a list of factors to help judge whether charging operators to obtain official league data for in-play wagering was “commercially reasonable.”
They also clarified some other details concerning the types of sporting events for which licensees could accept wagers. Stadiums and arenas applying for licenses were required to receive authorization to do so from the teams that play in their venues. Also, bets made in Cook County would face an additional 2% county tax.
At the end of January, three casinos jumped to the front of the line to apply for sports betting licenses:
In early February each received temporary operating permits from the IGB.
All 10 casinos had shown interest in getting sports betting licenses. However, once it became possible to apply, some appeared less eager to do so. One reason was that the casinos continued to object to the in-person registration requirement for those wishing to open an online sportsbook account.
Meanwhile, PointsBet partnered with Hawthorne Race Course near Chicago, showing its intention to operate an online sportsbook in Illinois.
From late 2019 onward, March Madness had emerged as a target date for launching sports betting in the state. By early March two more casinos received temporary operating permits:
By the end of March, the state’s racetracks applied for licenses as well, though none had been approved.
Having received provisionary status to take sports bets, Rivers Casino earned the distinction of taking the first wager on the morning of Monday, March 9 at its BetRivers Sportsbook. Three days later the Sportsbook at Argosy Casino Alton opened as well.
Alas for both sportsbooks, that was also the week the sports world took a dramatic and unexpected turn.
The night of Wednesday, March 11, the NBA announced the postponement of its season due to the coronavirus. On Thursday, March 12, the NHL did the same, the MLB canceled spring training, and the NCAA canceled all of its remaining winter and spring championships, including March Madness. By the end of the weekend, practically every major sport had shut down, not just in the US but around the world.
Sports betting was legal in Illinois, but there were no sports on which to bet.
April saw a sixth Illinois casino receive a temporary operating permit:
Also in April came a much anticipated judicial decision. The Illinois Supreme Court made a ruling concerning the legal status of daily fantasy sports.
Back in 2015, Attorney General Lisa Madigan advanced an opinion that DFS was illegal. That view had an impact on sports betting legislation insofar as it made “bad actors” out of DraftKings and FanDuel. The DFS sites continued to serve Illinois players despite the AG’s opinion. As a result came the “penalty box,” forcing both sites to wait 18 months before being able to apply for licenses to launch their own standalone online sportsbooks in the state.
However, the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling rejected Madigan’s opinion. The judgment was that DFS games included a significant enough skill element to avoid violating state law governing games of chance.
A seventh casino received its temporary operating permit in May:
While seven casinos had permits, only Rivers Casino and the Argosy Casino Alton had provisionary status to accept sports bets.
June began with another unforeseen twist in the Illinois sports betting story.
With casinos still closed throughout the state, Gov. Pritzker signed an executive order on June 8 suspending the in-person requirement to register for an online sportsbook. The Illinois Gaming Board responded to say the order would apply until the IGB “issues a master sports wagering license.”
On June 11 all seven casinos with temporary operating permits received four-year sports betting licenses from the IGB. That move also started a 630-day clock for regulators to begin entertaining competitive bids for online-only licenses.
A week later BetRivers became the first online sportsbook to go live in Illinois on June 18. Thanks to Gov. Pritzker’s executive order, the site’s first users were able to register for accounts online.
June ended with DraftKings partnering with Casino Queen, perhaps opening the door to DraftKings making it into Illinois with an online sportsbook sooner than later.
In July FanDuel followed DraftKings’ lead and also announced a partnership with an Illinois land-based operator, Hawthorne Race Course. FanDuel received a temporary operating permit as a service provider as well.
However, on July 27, Gov. Pritzker abruptly rescinded his executive order lifting the in-person restriction for registering online sportsbook accounts.
Much as happened with the original announcement of the order, there was no forewarning from Pritzker before he rescinded it. The news surprised operators. With the MLB starting its shortened season and the NBA and NHL resuming their seasons as well, at least the state’s two operating retail sportsbooks had games on which bettors could place wagers.
July ended with another bit of controversy. Miscommunication from the IGB caused BetRivers temporarily to stop offering wagers on golf, tennis, motorsports, Korean baseball, and some soccer leagues. The misunderstanding was eventually resolved, although it revealed the still uncertain nature of Illinois’ sports betting as it takes its first tentative steps.
Yes, thanks to the passage and signing of the Sports Wagering Act (230 ILCS 45), it is legal for Illinois residents and visitors to take part in sports betting.
It’s live right now. Both BetRivers and DraftKings are accepting wagers online in Illinois at this time, and more online sportsbooks are expected to debut in the very near future.
There are four retail sportsbooks and two online sportsbooks open for business in Illinois. You can place a bet with BetRivers or DraftKings through your mobile devices, or you can proceed to the Argosy, the Rivers Des Plaines, the Grand Victoria Casino — Elgin or DraftKings at Casino Queen if you want to wager in person.
Yes. DraftKings Sportsbook launched both online and retail sportsbooks in August 2020.
Not yet. Although FanDuel offers daily fantasy sports action to Illinois residents, betting on sports with FanDuel is not possible at this time. We expect a launch from the company in the very near future.
However, playing from outside Illinois is prohibited. Sportsbooks are required to employ geolocation software to verify every player’s location on the site.
Sportsbooks that fail to comply with this requirement will risk fines and sanctions from oversight agencies. So, there will never be a time that the books will take out-of-state play lightly.