Everything You Need To Know About Illinois Online Sports Betting

Whether you’re a fan of the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Fire, Red Stars or Bandits, the Illinois legislature has gone all-in on giving bettors in the state the opportunity to place online sports bets on the home team – well, the professional ones anyway. 

Lawmakers passed SB0690 on June 2, which puts Illinois among the more than a dozen states, plus Washington, D.C., to authorize legal US sports betting

As of this typing, the Illinois online sports betting bill has yet to be signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (don’t worry, he’s going to do it), and the Magic 8 Ball is saying “Reply Hazy” as to when the first sports wagers might be placed, though officials are hopeful for around the start of the NFL season which kicks off Sept. 5.

How Illinois Online Sports Betting Efforts Began

In May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional And Amateur Sports Protection Act due to a challenge from the state of New Jersey which opened door to states beyond Nevada to launch sports betting in the US.

In the last year, either through grandfathered laws or newly approved legislation, more than a dozen states, including Illinois, and Washington, D.C. have implemented or are poised to begin some form of legalized sports betting. NJ online sports betting is flourishing and online sports betting in PA got out of the starter’s blocks in June 2019.

Illini Legislators Ante Up

In the last legislative session, state Rep. Mike Zalewski came to the state Capitol with multiple sports betting proposals determined to take advantage of the perceived economic benefits. 

Stakeholders from racetrack and casino holders, to video gaming operators and sports leagues, participated in months of push-me, pull-you negotiations.

A fierce point of contention was “bad-actor” language in a fifth proposal brought by Rep. Robert Rita, that included a proposal by Rivers Des Plaines Casino and its director initially seeking a three-year moratorium of betting participation by online-only operators FanDuel and DraftKings. The fantasy giants are accused of continuing to operate after a 2015 non-binding attorney general opinion that they “clearly constitute gambling.”

The proposed law that emerged on June 2 from a two-day special session knocked the penalty down to 18 months, giving casinos an advantage in establishing sportsbooks. The online sports betting providers can get around this by partnering with a casino and using the partners name, such as Caesars is DraftKings. But this likely isn’t what DraftKings wants since it couldn’t use its own brand.

10 Things You Might Want To Know About Illinois Online Sports Betting

1. When can you bet. At this writing, there is still no firm date when Illinois online sports betting will start. The approved bill has yet to be signed into law, though Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will do so. Some officials say betting will begin in time for the NFL season, while others say that is incredibly optimistic. We’ll advise when the picture is clearer.

2. Where can you bet. After licenses are approved, casinos, racetracks and kiosks in select sports venues will offer betting first, with full Illinois online sports betting available later. In a planned pilot program during the first year of sports betting, there will be 2,500 kiosks, similar to those selling lottery scratch-offs, where patrons can place sports bets. Another 2,500 more are planned in the second year of sports betting. Seven sports venues, (pg. 243) that seat 17,000 or more, are eligible to open sportsbooks as well. They are: Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, United Center, Guaranteed Rate Field, SeatGeek Stadium, Chicagoland Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway. Though not implemented yet, Washington, D.C., too, will have live betting in sports venues. Pennsylvania and New Jersey sports venues allow mobile wagering.

3. You must be this old to bet. 21 years old … it doesn’t matter how tall you are. 

4. No in-state collegiate betting. When in Illinois, bettors can place wagers on any and all of the professional leagues but favorite local college teams or their in-state alma mater is off limits. The athletic directors of several Division 1 schools spoke with lawmakers earlier this year, making a case for in-state college sports to be exempt from wagering. They cited that student athletes would become targets for those wanting to get inside information or wanting to influence players or the outcome. Lawmakers agreed and the collegiate exemption is in place. So, Notre Dame YES! Northwestern NO!

5. Mobile betting. The plan is for Illinois mobile betting to occur soon after sportsbooks are up and running at brick-and-mortar establishments. For the first 18 months, the wagers will have to be placed on an app or website partnered with a brick-and-mortar operation, where you also will have to register before you can bet. (pg. 242).

6. DraftKings and FanDuel prohibition. DraftKings and FanDuel are the seeming immediate losers in the Illinois sports betting legislation having been placed in a proverbial “penalty box.” The online-only fantasy sports behemoths are prevented from entering the betting market for 18 months, giving casinos a head start in both retail and online. Adding salt to the wound, Rush Street Interactive, a minority owner and manager of Rivers Casino, will be allowed to implement its mobile platform to state bettors as DraftKings and FanDuel have to sit on their thumbs. Rush Street took advantage of a similar partnership with New Jersey’s SugarHouse Casino to get a jump on mobile in neighboring Pennsylvania. Not that the two fantasy sports providers are completely out of plays, they can partner with an existing casino but cannot use their brand or “skin.” For example, DraftKings which partners with Caesars could participate under their umbrella.

7. Six new casinos. An amendment (pg. 227) to the bill, brings Chicago its first casino which will be privately owned and have about 4,000 seats available for gambling. It could take three years before the Chicago casino opens. The remaining six casinos, with 2,000 seats, will be in the suburbs of Danville, Rockford, Waukegan and Williamson County with 1,200 seats (pg. 640). The casino expansion could bring an additional $360 million into state coffers from license and application fees.

8. More gambling expansion. The bill also allows existing casinos with less than 1,200 seats to grow to 2,000. Horse racetracks are allowed 1,200 seats. SB690 also permits poker and video slots at Chicago O’Hare International and Chicago Midway International airports, and only be available in private clubs, not the public.

9. Official data required. Illinois is the second state in the nation, the other being Tennessee, to require official league data (pg. 252) for all in-play and prop bets. The professional leagues will not be paid an integrity fee but will receive revenue for providing the data.

10. Who will benefit. The residents of Illinois. The tax rate for sports betting is 15 percent generating roughly $12 billion in revenue over the next six years. A large chunk of that will come from betting license fees, (pg. 234) $3 million to $20 million depending on the type of facility and breadth of its operations and their subsequent renewal. The money will help fund a $45 billion “Rebuild Illinois” plan for roads, mass transit, bridges, schools and universities and other projects. Chicago’s one-third share of its new casino revenue will go toward funding police and firefighter pension funds. 

Illinois Long Bullish On Gambling

Rome wasn’t built in a day is the cliché, well neither is Illinois online sports betting. 

The measure on the governor’s desk is just the latest in a rich, or not-so-rich, history of gambling in Illinois:

1800s: Illinois was home to unlicensed riverboats and the riffraff drawn to them. 

1920s:  Betting on horses was legal and the height sophistication and popularity. In 1921, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and seven teammates were found not guilty on conspiring to throw the World Series but still banned from baseball. About the same time, Prohibition and the rise of Al Capone, Charlie Birger and other gangsters profiting from bootlegging and illegal gambling while battling “untouchable” Eliot Ness.

1979: The Land of Lincoln legislated a state lottery to benefit education.

1986: Licensed charity gambling was OK’d.

1990s: Riverboat casinos in 1991were required to cruise rivers while open then allowed in ’99 to drop anchor with gambling complexes built around them at permanent docks.

2000s: In 2001, Illinois was the first state to sell lottery tickets online. In 2009, the state approved the Video Gaming Act but it took two years to implement due to court challenges. To many, the payout hasn’t been worth it. The Casinos Act passed muster in 2011, expanding casinos away from rivers, allowing games offered at pari-mutuel racetracks to include slot machines.

Which brings us to 2019, where legal Illinois online sports betting will take place sometime in the fall. Keep this page in mind for all your future Indiana online sports betting news and updates!

(Chicago Cubs Photo: Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports)