Illinois Sports Betting

Illinois is now officially a sports betting state.

In late June 2019, Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Sports Wagering Act into law. The law permits retail and online sports betting in Illinois. The first legal sports wager was made in Illinois in March 2020 at Rivers Casino in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines.

Online sportsbooks began to launch in Illinois not long after that.

BetRivers was the first to launch, taking advantage of Pritzker temporarily suspending the in-person registration requirement because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, DraftKings at Casino Queen launched online as well, but soon after that app went live, Pritzker reversed his stance on online registration.

FanDuel launched online on Aug. 28, becoming the third live mobile sportsbook in Illinois. PointsBet online sportsbook launched on Sept. 12. William Hill went live on Sept. 15.

Thankfully for bettors in Illinois, Pritzker saw the error of his ways, reinstating the suspension on Aug. 21. Now bettors within Illinois can register their sportsbook app accounts online through Oct. 17.

Here’s an overview of how sports betting came to be in Illinois. Furthermore, we share information about what to expect for those looking to place sports wagers in the Land of Lincoln.

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Illinois sports betting latest updates

Updated: Sept. 25, 2020

  • Sept. 18: Pritzker extends mobile registration until at least Oct. 17.
  • Sept. 15: William Hill launches sports betting app
  • Sept. 12: PointsBet launches online sportsbook
  • Aug. 28: FanDuel launches online sportsbook
  • Aug. 21: Pritzker once again suspends in-person registration, could expire Sept. 19
  • Aug. 5: DraftKings launches online sportsbook
  • Early-mid August: DraftKings, William Hill, Hollywood Casinos launch retail sportsbooks
  • July 26: Pritzker resumes in-person registration requirement
  • July 1: BetRivers, Argosy retail sportsbooks open
  • July 1: Illinois casinos reopen
  • June 18: BetRivers launches first Illinois online sportsbook
  • June 5: Pritzker suspends in-person registration for online sports betting
  • March 16: All Illinois casinos shut down due to COVID-19
  • March 9, 2020: BetRivers takes first legal wager in Illinois
  • June 2019: Gov. JB Pritzker signs sports betting bill into law

Illinois sports betting apps

The Prairie State is now home to both online and retail sportsbooks.

So far, Illinois has seen the launch of five online sportsbooks. DraftKings, BetRivers, FanDuel, PointsBet and William Hill have debuted their sports betting products in the state in the past few months.

OperatorPartnerLicense StatusLaunch Date
BetRiversRivers CasinoApprovedJune 18, 2020
DraftKingsCasino QueenApprovedAug. 5, 2020
FanDuelPar-A-Dice CasinoApprovedAug. 28, 2020
PointsBetHawthorne Race CourseApprovedSept. 12, 2020
William HillGrand Victoria CasinoApprovedSept. 15, 2020

However, these sports betting giants will have company soon enough. There is reason to believe that several other big names in the sports betting industry will be coming to Illinois in the near future. They are:

  • Penn National (Unibet, Barstool Sports): Unibet recently secured market access through a partnership with Argosy Casino Alton, owned by Penn. It will launch as soon as possible. There are no concrete plans with Barstool, but a partnership with Hollywood Casino Aurora or Joliet appears likely.
  • BetMGM: A top casino company with online sportsbooks in multiple states.
  • Fox Bet: Joint venture between The Stars Group and Fox Sports has debuted as an online sportsbook in several other locations.

How online sports betting works in IL

Mobile sports betting might be a curious thing for Illinois sports bettors. After all, if the only sports betting experience you’ve had is inside a traditional sportsbook, you might not be comfortable with placing a wager with your smartphone.

However, once you visit one of the Illinois sportsbooks’ apps or websites, you’ll discover that they are largely identical and equivalent to any experience you’ve had at a retail sportsbooks. In fact, in some ways, they are quite superior.

Differences between online sports betting and retail

For one thing, online sports betting features no shortage of bet types. Whereas a retail book may limit itself to basic spreads, moneylines and totals, most online sportsbooks don’t have such restriction.

In fact, one of the biggest differences between retail and online is the ability for online sportsbooks to offer live, in-game wagering on a massive scale.

The technology allows online sportsbooks to offer betting on micro-events 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 several wagers on a single contest, so there is always something to bet on when you bet on a legal online sportsbook.

Sportsbook apps can offer buyouts for open bets that will allow you to realize your profits and guard against any late collapses.

A button press on your bet slip can trigger the live ticket system on Illinois sportsbook apps and settle a wager; however, you’ll just have to pay a bit of a premium for the privilege.

Mobile sports betting allows for the ability to customize the offerings to improve your experience, rather than simply providing the same thing to everyone.

DraftKings offers a betting carousel that suggests wagers based upon your preferences and betting history, rather than a blanket of wagering opportunities.

Apple and Android applications

Sportsbook apps work on Apple and Android devices. However, the procedure for getting the sports betting app onto your device can vary.

Apple users tend to have an easier time, as most online sportsbooks have dedicated iOS apps that download in the same manner as other apps.

One notable exception to this rule is BetRivers.

To access BetRivers Sportsbook from your Apple device, you will first need to download and activate GeoGuard, a geolocation verification app that BetRivers needs to pinpoint your location that’s within Illinois state lines. From there, you can use your web browser to access BetRivers.

Most sportsbooks also feature a dedicated Android app.

One minor bump in the road for Android users is Google’s prohibition on real-money gaming apps in the Google Play Store.

So, to circumvent this restriction, you will need to ensure your device accepts downloads from “unknown sources.”  Then, you will need to download the .apk file from the sportsbook and install it from there.

If you plan to bet on a mobile device, make sure you have the correct sports betting app for Illinois.

Although some apps are the same several states, some sportsbook operators 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.

Sports betting bonuses and free bet offers

One of the most significant differences of online sportsbooks compared with retail is the prevalence of bonuses. Because the competition is only a few clicks away, online sportsbooks have to work harder to keep customers interested, happy and loyal.

Here are some of the most common types of promotions you’ll encounter at Illinois betting sites:

  • No-deposit bonuses: One of the best types of promotions is the no-deposit bonus. You don’t have to deposit a dime to take advantage, although they are most common for new players as an enticement to register for an account.
  • Deposit/Match/Reload bonuses: These bonuses all function the same and involve the sportsbook matching a portion or all your deposit amount with its own money. You will usually have to play through the bonus money to a certain degree before you can withdraw it.
  • Insurance/Cashback: These are bonuses that are given to compensate for losses on specific bets or during certain periods. They are usually distributed for net losses only; however, so the best that these can do is help you break even.
  • Event bonuses: These bonuses are specified for player or team achievements, like goals or scores of a certain type, and may pay a flat amount to you for each time they occur during a game.
  • Loyalty programs: These programs reward customers for continued patronage. You receive perks and bonuses, depending upon the aggregate total amount of wagers you make on the site.
  • Free bets: These vouchers allow a wager of a certain value on specific bets. The bonuses are often given for the completion of tasks that the sportsbook specifies.

Offshore sportsbooks vs. legal Illinois sportsbooks

A quick Google search virtually anywhere in the United States will reveal the presence of online sportsbooks. These sites appear legitimate and say all the right things, so you could be confused about why these sites aren’t legal.

The truth is these sites 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:

  • They are not subject to Illinois or US law: These sportsbooks do not have to comply with the same standards of business, fairness or accuracy that domestic sportsbooks do. You never know what kind of fair game they are running.
  • You have no way to dispute their practices: Coupled with that they are not subject to US law is the fact that you have virtually no manner of holding them accountable if you get crossways with them about a bet or account management. Even if they advertise that they are subject to oversight from some agency, you will never know if this agency has any power to help you or is even independent of the site itself.
  • There’s no need anymore: Finally, the biggest reason to avoid playing offshore is because legal Illinois sportsbooks are available. These are legitimate sites with all their business practices laid bare and subject to scrutiny. So, make the smart choice, and keep your sports betting bankroll inside the state lines.

Illinois legal framework

Sports betting is legal in Illinois, both in retail locations and online. The Illinois Gaming Board regulates sports betting in the state.

Casinos and racetracks can apply for a license to operate sportsbooks. Somewhat unique to Illinois is 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 have sportsbooks.

Lottery vendors can offer sports betting kiosks as well, regulated separately by the Illinois Lottery.

An Illinois Supreme Court ruling in April 2020 decided that the skill component of daily fantasy sports (DFS) made them legal in the state. The ruling rejected the attorney general’s 2015 opinion that DFS was illegal gambling.

Online sports betting and in-person registration requirement

As mentioned above, the Illinois sports betting law allows online sportsbooks.

Until Oct. 17, you can register for an account entirely online without going to a retail sportsbook to finish the process. We advise taking advantage of this while you can because the in-person mandate could return.

The convenience of online registration of sportsbook accounts enables more users to sign up and place wagers, thereby increasing revenue and taxes for the state of Illinois.

What you cannot bet on in Illinois

Sports bettors 21 years 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 certain types of wagers.

Some states allow the following types of bets. However, in Illinois, sports operator licensees cannot accept wagers on:

  • A minor league sporting event.
  • A sports event involving an Illinois collegiate team.
  • A K-12th grade sports event.
  • A nonsports event (i.e., an event that is not “a professional sport or athletic event, a collegiate sport or athletic event, a motor race event” or other events authorized by the IGB).

That latter restriction against betting on non-sports events prohibits accepting wagers on events like the Academy Awards (permitted in some states, like New Jersey and 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.

Illinois retail in-person sports betting

There are multiple retail sports betting locations open for business in Illinois.

They have been opening since March 2020, and the number of options will only continue to grow in the months ahead.

Here are the places you can visit to make a wager in the Prairie State:

Illinois Retail Sportsbooks

Argosy Casino Alton

Argosy Casino Alton was the second casino to launch a sportsbook on-site in Illinois. The casino 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 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 will partner with Unibet for its online offering, but there isn’t a definitive timeline for launch.

  • Address: 1 Piasa St., Alton, IL 62002
  • Hours of operation: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily

DraftKings at Casino Queen

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 region are discovering the top-notch betting 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.

  • Address: 200 S. Front St., East St. Louis, IL 62201
  • Hours of operation: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily

Grand Victoria Casino Elgin

In Elgin, Grand Victoria Casino became the third Illinois casino to welcome retail sportsbook on its premises.

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.

  • Address: 250 S. Grove Ave., Elgin, IL 60120
  • Hours of operation: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Hollywood Casino Aurora

Like its sister casino, Hollywood Casino Joliet is owned by Penn National Gaming.

The Joliet location features more than 40 HDTVs and has five sports betting terminals. Patrons can find the sportsbook located inside of the 99 Hops House at the casino.

And while Joliet isn’t quite as populated as Aurora, it’s close. Joliet is the fourth-largest city in Illinois and is slightly less than an hour away from Aurora.

  • Address: 777 Hollywood Blvd., Joliet, IL 60436
  • Hours of operation: Daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., hours vary slightly depending on the day

Hollywood Casino Joliet

Like its sister casino, Hollywood Casino Joliet is owned by Penn National Gaming.

The Joliet location features more than 40 HDTVs and has five sports betting terminals. Patrons can find the sportsbook located inside of the 99 Hops House at the casino.

And while Joliet isn’t quite as populated as Aurora, it’s close. Joliet is the fourth-largest city in Illinois and is slightly less than an hour away from Aurora.

  • Address: 777 Hollywood Blvd., Joliet, IL 60436
  • Hours of operation: Daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., hours vary slightly depending on day

Par-A-Dice Casino

FanDuel secured market access through Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria and launched its mobile product on Aug. 28. It was the first Illinois sportsbook to launch online before opening its retail location.

Located in East Peoria, Par-A-Dice represents FanDuel’s 12th retail sportsbook in nine states. East Peoria isn’t particularly close to Chicago or St. Louis, but it’s obviously close to Peoria, the eighth-largest city in Illinois.

FanDuel does not use Kambi lines, which means its retail sportsbook is one of two in Illinois to go against the grain.

  • Address: 21 Blackjack Blvd, East Peoria, IL 61611
  • Hours of operation: Monday-Friday 3 p.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m.-11 p.m.

Rivers Casino Des Plaines

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 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.

  • Address: 3000 S. River Road, Des Plaines, IL 60018
  • Hours of operation: 10 a.m. to midnight daily

Sportsbooks in Illinois

Other locations that could offer Illinois sports betting

Hawthorne Race Course could launch any day. Its strategic sports betting partner, PointsBet, has been adamant that a launch is forthcoming from the Chicago-area racetrack soon. There are only a few more licensing and logistical issues that remain.

According to Illinois law, all its casinos and racetracks are eligible to host sportsbooks. Although it’s unlikely that all of them will, many will join the sports betting party sooner or later.

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:

  • Arlington International Racecourse
  • Fairmount Park Racetrack

Finally, the Illinois law that legalized sports betting also included one of the quirkiest rules about what types of venues can host sports betting.

In addition to the two groups above and some lottery vendors, sports venues with seating greater than 17,000 can host a sportsbook.

DraftKings officially broke the ice with its partnership and eventual Wrigley Field sportsbook.

Although there aren’t any applications on file with the state just yet, the following facilities would also qualify to host a sportsbook:

  • Soldier Field
  • United Center
  • Guaranteed Rate Field
  • SeatGeek Stadium
  • Chicagoland Speedway
  • World Wide Technology Raceway

Tax rates for retail and online sportsbooks

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 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 revenue

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) oversees Illinois sports betting. The IGB 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. 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.

League partnership/sponsorship deals

No Illinois professional sports teams have specifically partnered with a sports betting partner just yet. However, given that seven venues in the state can open 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 professional sports

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:

  • Chicago Cubs (MLB)
    • Won the 2016 World Series
    • One of the original teams in the National League (1876)
  • Chicago White Sox (MLB)
    • Won the 2005 World Series
    • Originally known as the White Stockings
  • Chicago Fire (MLS)
    • Won the MLS Cup in 1998 in their first year of existence
    • The name recognizes famous disaster; colors reminiscent of fire departments
  • Chicago Bulls (NBA)
    • Won six NBA championships in 1990s
    • Main NBA team for Michael Jordan, widely recognized as the greatest basketball player ever
  • Chicago Bears (NFL)
    • Won nine pre-merger NFL championships and one Super Bowl (1985)
    • Have more players in the NFL Hall of Fame than any other team
  • Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
    • Have won six Stanley Cup championships, including three since 2010
    • Named after Sauk Native American warrior Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak
  • Chicago Red Stars (NWSL)
    • Appeared in first league finals in 2019
    • Name chosen by fan vote
  • Chicago Sky (WNBA)
    • Won 2014 conference championship
    • One of few WNBA teams without NBA team affiliation

Illinois sports betting history

Considerable argument and legal wrangling preceded that first sports wager in Illinois. Discussions continued afterward as well, as interested parties further debated how sports betting would be implemented in the state.

2018

Illinois lawmakers began 2018 with sports betting on the radar.

In January, Rep. Lou Lang proposed the first of 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 US Supreme Court decision in May 2018 to lift the federal ban on states offering sports betting sparked interest for Illinois. The Prairie State moved take up sports betting in earnest the following year.

2019

January-early May

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 racetracks, sports venues with capacities of 17,000 or more, and lottery vendors to operate 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.

End of May-June (Inclusion within capital improvements plan)

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, after attention was drawn to his being a lawyer for different gambling companies and how that may 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 initially 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.

End of May-June (passage into law)

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.

July-December

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 Dec. 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.

2020

January

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.

February

At the end of January, three casinos jumped to the front of the line to apply for sports betting licenses:

  • Argosy Casino Alton
  • Grand Victoria Casino Elgin
  • Rivers Casino

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.

March

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:

  • Hollywood Casino Aurora
  • Hollywood Casino Joliet

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 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 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 weren’t any sports on which to bet.

April

April saw a sixth Illinois casino receive a temporary operating permit:

  • Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino

Also in April came a much anticipated judicial decision. The Illinois Supreme Court made a ruling concerning the legal status of daily fantasy sports.

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.

May

A seventh casino received its temporary operating permit in May:

  • DraftKings at Casino Queen

While seven casinos had permits, only Rivers Casino and the Argosy Casino Alton had provisionary status to accept sports bets.

June

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.

July

In July FanDuel followed DraftKings’ lead and also announced a partnership with an Illinois land-based operator, Par-A-Dice Casino. 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 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.

August

In August, DraftKings launched its retail sportsbook in Illinois, as Casino Queen rebranded to DraftKings at Casino Queen.

For a while, DraftKings was retail-only. But on Aug. 21, Gov. Pritzker temporarily lifted the in-person registration requirement again, allowing DraftKings to launch its online sportsbook in Illinois. It was the second mobile product to hit the market.

FanDuel, partnering with Par-A-Dice Casino, followed shortly thereafter and launched its online sportsbook on Aug. 28. The executive order expires on Sept. 19, and Pritzker’s decision on whether or not to extend it could have big industry ramifications.

And thankfully, Illinois sportsbooks were able to start offering golf events again just in time for the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields. There, Jon Rahm defeated Dustin Johnson in one of the most thrilling PGA Tour events of the year.

Illinois Sports Betting FAQ

Is sports betting legal in Illinois?

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.

When will online sportsbooks launch in Illinois?

It’s live right now. BetRivers, DraftKings and FanDuel sportsbooks are accepting wagers online in Illinois at this time. More online sportsbooks are expected to debut soon.

Where can I bet on sports?

There are six retail sportsbooks and three 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 Casino in Alton, the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Hollywood casinos in Aurora and Joliet or DraftKings at Casino Queen in East St. Louis if you want to wager in person.

Is DraftKings Sportsbook legal in Illinois?

Yes, DraftKings Sportsbook launched both online and retail sportsbooks in August 2020.

Can I bet at FanDuel in IL?

Yes, FanDuel Sportsbook went live on Aug. 28. It also offers daily fantasy sports action to Illinois residents and visitors.

Can I bet outside of Illinois?

Playing at an Illinois sportsbook from outside the state 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.

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