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Sports Betting in Illinois

Hasan Nabulsi

Updated on May 9, 2020

Legal sports betting in Illinois became a reality during the summer of 2019. Although it took a few weeks after the legislature passed a bill with sports betting provisions on it, Governor Jay Robert Pritzker signed Senate Bill 690 (SB 690) into law on June 28, 2019, as part of a $45 billion capital plan.

With all the necessary documents signed and a legal framework in place, several casinos launched Illinois sportsbooks launched on March 9, 2020. As a result, residents in the Chicago area as well as in other parts of the Prarie state have somewhere to go to bet on sports. More land-based sportsbooks in Illinois are poised to open in the near future, but online sports betting is not slated to launch yet. 

Irrespective of how long it takes for online sports betting website to offer betting to players in Illinois, the June 2 vote and Pritzker’s subsequent signature should be considered a win for sports fans. With Illinois joining the likes of New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware as US sports betting states, bettors can look forward to a wealth of opportunities over the coming months and years.

Illinois Sports Betting Timeline

When did sports betting become legal in Illinois? Unlike some states which took years to vote in favor of regulated sports betting, Illinois was relatively quick off the mark. In fact, at one point in 2018, there were five separate bills on the table. To see how things went from illegal to legal, check out the timeline below:

January 2018

In January 2018, Illinois had five sports betting bills up for consideration. Although not all could succeed, the level of interest from lawmakers, casino owners and residents made Illinois a top pick to become a regulated sports betting state in mid-2018. However, disagreements between sports leagues and other interested parties meant an agreement couldn’t be reached before the end of the year.

May 2018

In an effort to keep the state’s sports betting hopes alive, Rep. Robert Rita shifted the focus towards a casino expansion bill. Previously filed in 2017, the bill was designed to give Chicago a new casino but Rita added some placeholders. Although blank, he pushed the House Gaming Subcommittee to consider the inclusion of online gambling, sports betting and daily fantasy sports at a later date.

In essence, Rita knew there wasn’t enough time in the legislative session to formulate clear regulations. However, by offering up the placeholders as a potential talking point, he effectively gave Illinois sports betting supports renewed hope.

January 2019

At the start of 2019, various potential frameworks were discussed within the House and Senate. However, as the disagreements between interested parties continued, the road to regulation started to look less likely.

June 2019

It wasn’t until the final hours of the legislative session that things changed. With Gov. Pritzker throwing his support behind regulation with a $200 million budget plan, Rep. Rita made a move. Following a series of amendments, the casino expansion bill with its new provisions was accepted.

After passing through the House on May 31, the Senate gave the green light on June 2. Part of a capital funding bill, the sports betting legislation was sent off to Gov. Pritzker.

Having previously shown support for a sports betting expansion bill, Pritzker put his John Hancock on SB 690 on June 28, 2019. In signing the bill, the Governor authorized a $45 billion capital plan designed to use revenue from legal sports betting to boost the state’s school, amenities and more.

March 2020

After months of regulatory measures such as conducting public hearings, reviewing applications, and issuing licenses, the first sportsbooks in Illinois launched on March 9, 2020. 

Unfortunately, on March 12, the NBA and almost every sports league in the U.S. suspended their season because of COVID-19 precautions. To add to this, casinos in Illinois were ordered to shut down as a way to stop the spreading of the virus. 

A timetable for when these Illinois sportsbooks will be able to reopen is still a bit unclear.

Where Can I Bet on Sports in Illinois?

Bet on the Cubs with Illinois sportsbooks
Bet on the Chicago Cubs with legal Illinois sportsbooks. (Image: The New York Times)

The Illinois sports betting laws will allow casinos, racetracks, off-track betting facilities, and even professional sports stadiums to house their own sportsbook. 

So far, there have been three casino sportsbooks in Illinois that have launched. Those casinos are as follows:

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

These were the first three casinos to be awarded a temporary license to open a sportsbook within their facilities. All three launched in time for March Madness in 2020. The tournament, however, was unfortunately canceled. 

There are two other locations that have submitted an application to offer sports betting at their venue and those locations are Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino in East Peoria and Fairmont Park Racetrack in Collinsville. Those locations have not received approval quite yet.

More locations are expected to submit applications in the near future. The establishments that can apply include current and future casinos, racetracks and off-track betting facilities, and professional sports stadiums.

What are the best legal sportsbooks in Illinois?

Right now, we can say that the best legal sportsbooks in Illinois are the ones that are currently open. Only three casinos are accepting sports bets at the moment, but out of all three, Rivers Casino Des Plaines might be the best. 

The casino had been preparing to be the first Illinois sportsbook to launch months before they were even given a license. That head start, plus the fact that it is the closest sportsbook to the Chicago area, make it an ideal choice to go to in order to place wagers on sports. 

There are 10 existing casinos that could potentially open a sportsbook in Illinois. There are also casinos that haven’t been built quite yet that plan to open with sportsbooks. That means anyone of them could become the best Illinois sportsbook in due time. 

As the industry grows, check back here because we will list all the top operators.

What are the top legal online betting sites in Illinois?

The answer is hard to say because no sports betting site in Illinois has launched or even received a license to operate. When Illinois sports betting sites go live, we’ll make sure you’re the first to know. 

One important aspect to keep in mind is that online sports betting sites in Illinois that don’t want to tether to a retail location can’t open until 18 months after the first retail sportsbook opens.

This rule was written as a way to punish operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings for operating daily fantasy sports in an unregulated fashion in the state. To add to this, online operators who wish to do business in the state without tethering to a retail casino will have to pay a licensing fee of $20 million. 

These factors will ultimately slow the rollout of mobile sports betting apps in Illinois and the number of online operators who can afford to be in the market.

The first retail sportsbooks opened in March 2020 which means online sportsbooks might come in September of 2021.

Casinos such as Rivers Casino Des Plaines, may be able to roll out their BetRivers app sooner since both the casino and the app are owned by Rush Street Gaming which is based in Illinois.

Illinois Sports Betting FAQ

What is the legal sports betting age in Illinois?

To bet on sports at Illinois leading sportsbooks, you have to be 21 or older.

What is the Illinois sports betting tax rate?

The proposed tax rate for licensed Illinois sportsbooks is 15%.

Can I bet on sports online in Illinois?

Yes! SB 690 passed House and Senate votes in early June 2019 and was officially signed into law by Gov. Pritzker on June 28, 2019. Thanks to those moves, online sports betting in Illinois is legal.

Who is in charge of sports betting in Illinois?

The regulatory body in charge of sports betting in Illinois is the Illinois Gaming Board. They are the ones who issue out sports wagering licenses to gaming operators that hope to open either an online or offline sportsbook in the state. 

When Will Sportsbooks in Illinois Launch?

Illinois sportsbooks launched a week before March Madness in 2020. Three locations are currently open but a timeline for when more retail sportsbooks in Illinois will open is a bit unclear. Online sports betting sites in IL are also expected to launch in 2021 but may come sooner if online sports gambling companies pair with retail establishments.