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Sports Betting in Illinois

Hasan Nabulsi

Updated on August 10, 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 on March 9, 2020. As a result, residents in the Chicago area as well as in other parts of the Prairie state have somewhere to go to bet on sports. More land-based sportsbooks in Illinois are poised to open in the near future.

Online sports betting in Illinois launched a little over three months later, but in a way that lawmakers never would’ve guessed

Irrespective of how long it took for online sports betting websites 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.

Governor J.B. PritzkerHaving 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.

June 2020

The first online sportsbook in Illinois, BetRivers, launched on June 18, 2020. Although many were worried how the in-person registration requirement would work when casinos were still closed, Governor Pritzker alleviated those concerns.

Governor Pritzker suspended that requirement by executive order weeks prior to the launch.

With sports such as UFC, NASCAR, The PGA Tour, and major European Soccer leagues starting to come back into season, sports bettors in Illinois were welcomed to a number of different options.

July 2020

While the suspension of in-person registration for online sportsbooks in Illinois helped in the short term, it only helped BetRivers.

Days before July ended, Governor Pritzker brought back the requirement. DraftKings, which had just signed a deal with Casino Queen, was expected to launch just days after that decision was made. A timeline for when they will launch or any other sports betting app will launch is in limbo.

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 seven casino sportsbooks in Illinois that have received licenses. Those casinos are as follows:

  • Rivers Casino Des Plaines 
  • Argosy Casino Alton 
  • Grand Victoria Casino Elgin
  • Hollywood Casino Aurora
  • Hollywood Casino Joliet
  • Casino Queen, Inc.
  • Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino

The first casino to launch a land-based sportsbook in Illinois was Rivers Casino Des Plaines. They did so a week before March Madness 2020 was supposed to take place. The tournament, however, was unfortunately canceled. 

The only other sportsbooks in Illinois that are open now are the Argosy Casino in Alton, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, and Casino Queen in East St. Louis.

The other locations are looking to open their sportsbooks as soon as it is safe to do so and they are allowed by the Illinois government. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the sportsbooks may open with limited capacity and other health protocols.

More locations are expected to submit applications in the near future. 

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. BetRivers at Rivers Casino Des Plaines was the first to open so it is the most well known.

Rivers Casino Des PlainesThe 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. 

However, fans of different sportsbook operators might enjoy other venues. William Hill operates in Grand Victoria Casino, DraftKings operates out of Casino Queen, and Argosy Casino has its own in-house brand.

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.  Even one of Chicago’s stadiums could take on the title of “best legal sportsbook in Illinois.”

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 only two sports betting sites in Illinois has launched so far. Those sites are BetRivers and DraftKings. When other Illinois sports betting sites go live, we’ll make sure you’re the first to know.

BetRivers IllinoisOne 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 certain 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 some online sportsbooks might not come until September of 2021.

Casinos such as Rivers Casino Des Plaines were 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.

But, popular sportsbooks such as DraftKings and Pointsbet have secured deals with casinos and racetracks and have received licenses from the IGB. DraftKings has already launched its app and PointsBet should launch its app in the very near future.

Governor Pritzker did suspend the rule for in-person registration in June 2020 but it was brought back a month later after casinos reopened. This will make it more difficult to sign up to use online betting sites in Illinois but with the opening of more sportsbooks across the state it might become easier. 

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. But, the only legal options at the moment are DraftKings and BetRivers. Other sports betting sites still need to get approval from the IGB and launch.

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?

Land-based Illinois sportsbooks launched a week before March Madness in 2020. Those locations had to close due to COVID-19 concerns but have since reopened. Online sports betting in IL launched in June 2020.