Illinois is one of the most recent states to launch sports betting, and the state has gotten off to a terrific start. Most industry experts predicted that Illinois would quickly become a sports betting leader, and it appears that things are heading in that direction.
Illinois has legalized and launched both retail and mobile sportsbooks, opening up a large number of betting options for Illinois residents. There are still some strange sports betting laws in the state, but sportsbooks have found plenty of early success.
The History behind Legal Sports Betting in Illinois
When the United States Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting, lawmakers in Illinois started to explore the idea of legalizing the industry. There were five different bills introduced early in 2018, but none of them made any real traction.
There were many different reasons that these bills were not taken seriously, but Illinois was simply not ready for sports betting at that time. When Governor JB Pritzer was elected in November 2018, things started to turn around in the sports betting discussion.
The biggest reason that Illinois started to explore sports betting was that the state was looking for a new source of revenue. The sports betting industry has proved to provide several states with additional tax revenue.
Eventually, sports betting was lumped into a larger gaming expansion bill, and it had the full support of Governor Pritzker. That gaming expansion bill was expected to bring in over $41 billion in revenue to the state of Illinois.
Governor Pritzker signed the bill into law on June 28, and the Illinois Gaming Board was tasked with regulating the industry. There were some interesting rules and licensing fees included in the law, and many believed that it would keep some of the biggest operators out of the state.
Financial History behind Legal Sports Betting in Illinois
The Illinois sports betting industry got off to a slow start, and timing had everything to do with it. Just a few days after the industry was launched, all of the retail sportsbooks in the state were shut down.
Live sports throughout the US were also postponed, leaving very little to bet on in the Land of Lincoln. Couple that with the fact that mobile sportsbook apps weren’t ready until July, and it meant a very slow start.
April and May produced zero sports bets, but Illinois still reported a total sports betting handle of more than $61.8 million from March-July. That number came from a little less than three months of a sports betting industry.
As more sportsbook apps became available in Illinois, total betting handle and total betting revenue also took a significant jump. Live sports also made their return in August, giving sportsbooks plenty of bets to offer.
In August, the total sports betting handle reached $139.6 million, which more than doubled the totals from the first three months. The total sports betting revenue during August totaled $7.2 million, which was a new state record.
BetRivers was the clear leader during August, accounting for more than $117 million of the total betting handle. $106.3 million of that was bet online through the mobile app.
Basketball and baseball were the most popular sports to bet on in Illinois in August, with hockey coming in a distant third. Basketball brought in $49.6 million in the total betting handle, and baseball brought in $49.4 million.
The September sports betting numbers have not been released as of October 20, but they are expected to shatter the previous record set in August. Football is the most popular sport to bet on throughout the industry, and the NFL kicked off in September.
Even though Illinois launched sports betting at a very inopportune time, the numbers reported indicate that Illinois could become a huge player in the industry.
Sportsbook Apps in Illinois
Illinois legalized mobile and online sports betting when the initial law was passed, but it took the state a long time to finally get mobile apps available to the public. Illinois was expected to have a slow start in the mobile betting industry, but things have actually progressed much quicker than expected since this Summer.
Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois, was the first to roll out a mobile app, doing so in June 2020. The BetRivers mobile sports betting app was officially launched on June 18, 2020.
DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook were the next two mobile sports betting apps available in the state, launching right around the end of July. These two sports betting operators were initially placed in a penalty box by Illinois lawmakers. Still, they were each able to partner with a land-based casino to offer mobile betting services.
PointsBet and William Hill were the next two mobile sportsbook apps in the state, both launching during September. PointsBet has partnered with Hawthorne Race Course, and William Hill partnered with the Grand Victoria Casino.
Here is a current list of mobile sportsbook apps available in Illinois as of October 2020:
- DraftKings Sportsbook
- FanDuel Sportsbook
- William Hill
Other mobile sportsbook apps are set to join the industry as well, and there will be three online-only sports betting licenses available beginning in 2021. With some of the industry’s biggest names already up and running in Illinois, it is unclear what operators will apply for these licenses.
Landlocked Locations to Bet on Sports in Illinois
Illinois lawmakers wanted to give the current casinos in the state a chance to bring in more revenue, and they gave each retail casino an opportunity to apply for a sports betting license. As of October 2020, these locations below have all received a master operator license:
- Grand Victoria (Elgin)
- Hollywood Casinos (Aurora)
- Hollywood Casino (Joliet)
- Par-A-Dice (East Peoria)
- Casino Queen (East St. Louis)
- Rivers Casino (Des Plaines)
- Argosy Casino (Alton)
Additionally, off-track betting facilities throughout the state of Illinois can apply for a sports betting license with the Illinois Gaming Board. The state has focused on issuing licenses to the current retail casinos before awarding other licenses.
The expanded gaming law also allowed for new casinos to be built throughout Illinois, including in downtown Chicago. At this point, a location has not been chosen, and it’s not likely that the new casino will be built before 2022.
Illinois state law also allows for the professional sports stadiums in Chicago to apply for a sports betting license. Betting can take place inside the actual stadium or in the surrounding areas.
Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, and the United Center are all expected to apply for a license to offer sports betting. This will likely occur in 2021.
Sports Teams to Bet on in Illinois
Illinois is home to a large number of professional and collegiate sports teams, and a majority of these teams are extremely popular. These teams have already started to drive sports betting in the state, and they will continue to do so in the future.
Chicago is one of the best sports cities in the United States, and it is home to five professional sports teams in the four major sports. Sports betting in the Chicago area is expected to dominate the market eventually.
The Chicago Bears are undoubtedly the most popular team in the city of Chicago and throughout the state of Illinois. Betting on the NFL is extremely popular, and Illinois residents will be betting on the Bears.
The Chicago Bulls of the NBA and the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL are two of the other most popular teams in the state. Both the Bulls and Blackhawks play games in the United Center in downtown Chicago.
The baseball fandom in Illinois is generally split three-ways between the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, and the St. Louis Cardinals. All three teams have a very loyal fanbase and will bring in a large number of bets.
Illinois rules and regulations also allow for betting on collegiate sporting events, and the state is right in the heart of Big Ten Country. The University of Illinois and Northwestern University both compete in the Big Ten Conference.
All of the teams or schools listed above should help drive sports betting throughout the state, but there are many other teams and leagues that will provide additional betting options.
FAQ for betting in Illinois
When did Illinois legalize sports betting?
State lawmakers spent the early part of 2019 working on an expanded gaming bill that included legalizing the sports betting industry. Senate Bill S 690 was officially signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker in June 2019.
When did sports betting launch in Illinois?
Retail sports betting launched in Illinois on March 9, 2020. The first legal sports bet was placed at the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois. Rivers Casino launched its mobile app, BetRivers, on June 18, 2020, and was the first mobile sportsbook app available in Illinois.
What is the legal betting age in Illinois?
The legal age to place a bet on sports in Illinois is 21 years of age.
Are mobile sportsbook apps available in Illinois?
Yes, as of October 2020, there are five mobile sportsbook apps available in Illinois. These include BetRivers, FanDuel, DraftKings, PointsBet, and William Hill. All five apps are available for download on both Android or iOS devices.
Do I have to register at a retail sportsbook?
This depends on when you plan on registering for a sports betting account. The initial rules and regulations set forth by the Illinois Gaming Board required an in-person registration at one of the retail locations.
Governor JB Pritzker has since issued an executive order that allows for mobile registration. That order has been extended three separate times, but in-person registration will likely be required again at some point.
Can I place a bet on the Fighting Illini?
Absolutely. Betting on collegiate sporting events is allowed in Illinois, and these events are offered by sportsbooks. Some states don’t allow betting on collegiate teams located in the state, but that is not the case in Illinois.
Are future bets allowed?
Yes. Sportsbooks in Illinois can offer future betting options, along with a wide range of other choices. Sportsbooks in Illinois have plenty of freedom in the betting options available.
Is there a sportsbook in downtown Chicago?
As of October 2020, the answer is no. The expanded gaming law does allow for a new casino to be built in downtown Chicago, but no official plans have been made.