Illinois Sports Betting 2021 – Where To Play, Online Sportsbooks And Bonus Offers

Update – Illinois online sports betting requires in-person registration once again. Governor Pritzker elected not to renew an executive order in April 2021 that had temporarily suspended the requirement on a monthly basis throughout the pandemic. The governor had previously allowed the order to expire in July 2020, before reinstating it in late August and renewing it each month since.

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After a contentious negotiation process, Illinois lawmakers finally pushed legal sports betting through the state legislature as part of a massive capital bill on June 3, 2019. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill on June 28. The bill, SB 690, checks in at more than 900 pages, and sports betting, which initially had stood on its own, was wrapped into it in order to get it passed during an extended legislative session.

Nine months later, on the eve of the COVID-19-related shutdown of professional sports across the U.S., the first legal wager in Illinois was placed on March 9, 2020, at Rivers Casino, owned by Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive. It was a very exciting day when sports betting became legal in Illinois (yes!).

The new Illinois sports betting law allows for statewide retail and online sports betting at casinos, racetracks, off-track betting parlors, and venues that house professional sports in Illinois. There are no tribal casinos in the state. State regulators will also issue three stand-alone mobile sports betting licenses, though those will not be issued until at least 18 months after the first “master” license was issued (which occurred in June 2020 – more on this below). Online sports betting apps were authorized on June 18, 2020 when BetRivers went live.

Online and mobile sportsbook apps in Illinois

Below is a full list of locations, excluding the seven professional venues, that could accept on-site sports wagers and pursue online wagering. Additional information can be found in the Illinois sports betting FAQ section at the bottom of the page.

Online Sportsbook (Actual or Projected)Online Launch DatePartner Casino/Sportsbook VenueOwner/Operator
BetRiversJune 2020Rivers Casino SportsbookRush Street Gaming
DraftKings SportsbookAug. 2020DraftKings at Casino QueenDraftKings
FanDuelAug. 2020FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing (Fairmount Park)William Stiritz and Associates
Caesars Sportsbook (formerly William Hill)Sep. 2020Grand VictoriaCaesars Entertainment
PointsBetSep. 2020Hawthorne Race CourseCarey Family
Barstool SportsbookMarch 2021Hollywood Casino JolietPenn National
BetMGM (projected)TBDPar-A-Dice Casino East PeoriaBoyd Gaming
Bally's SportsbookTBDJumer's Casino Rock IslandBally's Corp
Unibet (projected)TBDSportsbook at Argosy Casino AltonPenn National
TBDTBDHollywood Casino AuroraPenn National
William HillTBDHarrah's Metropolis Caesars Entertainment
William Hill
TBDHarrah's JolietCaesars Entertainment

It is fitting that Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive, which owns BetRivers, became the first online/mobile sportsbook to offer Illinois sports betting apps, going live on June 18. The launch was made possible, in part, by Executive Order 2020-41 from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, which temporarily removed the in-person registration requirement.

Illinois sports betting and casinos were shuttered from mid-March until early July, and the law requires patrons to register for online/mobile accounts in person at a casino, racetrack, OTB or venue in order to bet on sports. Pritzker’s executive order temporarily removed that requirement. In April 2021 the in-person mandate was reinstated. Before you can bet online, you must first register at a licensed retail casino.

The new law also requires internet-only operators to wait at least 18 months before launching stand-alone online sports betting apps or other platforms. The waiting period (find more details below) began June 11, 2020, when the IGB issued seven Master Sports Betting Licenses. However, both DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel (in that order) found ways to get into the market sooner.

DraftKings, FanDuel find path into market

On July 23, DraftKings Sportsbook announced that its partner, Casino Queen, would rebrand as “DraftKings at Casino Queen,” and DraftKings Sportsbook went live both at its retail location in East St. Louis and online/mobile on Aug. 5. The new name applies to both the retail and mobile/online sports betting apps that allow people to bet on sports in Illinois from anywhere in the state. DraftKings and FanDuel often have generous promotions for new customers.

FanDuel announced a similar partnership with the Fairmount Park Racetrack, but Fairmount did not receive its sports betting license until Oct. 29. The lengthy wait for approval resulted in FanDuel entering a co-branding situation with Par-A-Dice Casino in August 2020.

With Fairmount Park being granted a license and being deemed “preliminary suitable” to expand into a racino, FanDuel announced Nov. 16 it will transfer its sports betting license to the horse racing track in Collinsville, which has been renamed FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing. The track is located near the Illinois-Missouri border and close to the St. Louis metropolitan area, which has a larger population base to draw from compared to East Peoria.

It is the first time FanDuel has partnered with a horse racing track, and it will partner with TVG to bring back the St. Louis Derby, a $250,000 stakes race that has not been run since 2006. The track is scheduled to have 51 days of live racing in 2021. Look for FanDuel to also offer promotions for online bettors, including a free bet or deposit match.

The impending move by FanDuel is not expected to leave the Peoria-based Casino without a way for people to bet on sports in Illinois for a long period of time, though. BetMGM is expected to fill that void, with its link to Par-A-Dice Casino via a partnership with Boyd Gaming.

Others seeking to join

Elsewhere, casinos, horse tracks, and sports venues, can get moving on the mobile action with Illinois law allowing one mobile “skin” (brand) per entity. The three mobile-only licenses (no agreement necessary with existing casino license holder) will cost $20 million as compared to $10 million for an organizational (sports venues) or owners (casinos, racetracks) license.

All told, seven casinos and one horse racing track are currently licensed and approved to offer retail sports wagers: Argosy Casino Alton, DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel, Grand Victoria Casino, Rivers Casino Des Plaines, and Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet.

Hawthorne Race Course is the only horse racing track currently offering retail wagering on sports in Illinois. Fairmount Park will be the next, and Arlington Park withdrew its application for a sports wagering license in August since parent company Churchill Downs Inc. already owns a majority share of Rivers Casino Des Plaines, which is located 12 miles from the track. There are currently five mobile operators in Illinois, with PointsBet launching through Hawthorne on Sept. 12, and William Hill (now Caesars Sportsbook) doing likewise via Grand Victoria Casino three days later.

In addition, here’s a look at which companies will seek or obtain a mobile presence in the Land of Lincoln, either through partnerships with an existing casino, team or track, or through one of the three available mobile-only licenses. Look out for:

Land-based retail sportsbooks in Illinois

SportsbookCasinoOpening DateLaunch of Online Sportsbook
BetRiversRivers Casino Sportsbook3/9/20206/18/2020
DraftKings SportsbookDraftKings at Casino Queen, East St. Louis8/5/20208/5/2020
Penn NationalSportsbook at Argosy Casino Alton3/12/2020TBD
William HillGrand Victoria8/6/20209/15/2020
Penn National / BarstoolHollywood Casino Aurora8/20/2020TBD
Penn National / BarstoolHollywood Casino Joliet8/20/2020TBD
FanDuel SportsbookPar-A-Dice Casino9/10/20208/24/2020
Points Bet SportsbookHawthorne Race Course9/30/20209/12/2020

Rivers Sportsbook was first to launch at its retail location, Rivers Casino Des Plaines in Des Plaines, Ill., in March 2020. The Argosy Casino Alton soon followed in anticipation of the 2020 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. However, Argosy’s grand opening was delayed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, and Illinois sports betting apps and casinos were closed for about two months. On June 11, 2020, the Illinois Gaming Board approved seven casino applications for Master Sports Wagering Licenses.

After those licenses were approved, William Hill opened its retail location at the Grand Victoria in Elgin on Aug. 1, 2020, DraftKings Sportsbook opened its retail location on Aug. 5, and Hollywood Casinos opened sportsbooks at its Aurora and Joliet properties on Aug. 20. Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria took its first retail wagers on Sept. 10, just before the college football season began in earnest, while PointsBet started doing so Sept. 30.

Sportsbook at Argosy Casino Alton

The Sportsbook at Argosy Casino Alton was set for its grand opening March 16, after a soft launch the week before. The grand opening never happened after Illinois sports betting operations and casinos were ordered closed. Located in suburban St. Louis, the Argosy sportsbook is operated by Penn National. The book features teller windows, multiple kiosks, and plenty of TVs.

Online, the Argosy sportsbook offers BetBuilder technology, enabling people to enter their bets and then have their mobile device scanned at a teller window to get a betting ticket. It is believed Unibet Sportsbook will be the online betting skin for Argosy, or potentially Barstool Sportsbook.

DraftKings at Casino Queen

DraftKings and FanDuel both had to find their way around the online betting-only delay. Draftkings Sportsbook was able to do so relatively quickly, when it opened a sportsbook at Casino Queen on Aug. 5. DraftKings Sportsbook at Casino Queen is located in metro St. Louis, which will give at least some Missouri residents a chance to place sports bets (sports betting is not yet legal in St. Louis).

Online betting customers can currently sign up remotely for the DraftKings Sportsbook at Casino Queen Sportsbook digital platform, where DraftKings Sportsbook is offering a variety of unique promotions for new customers, including a deposit match or a risk free bet.

Hollywood Aurora Sportsbook

Aurora mayor Richard Irwin placed the ceremonial first bet — $20 on the Chicago White Sox moneyline at -177 to defeat the Detroit Tigers — when the retail sportsbook opened on Aug. 20, 2020. The opening was delayed about three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bettors will find ticket windows and self-service kiosks in the sportsbook, which is located in the center of the casino floor. Penn National is the operator, so the sportsbook naturally has some Barstool-affiliated promotions and branding present.

Hollywood Joliet Sportsbook

The property opened the same day as its sister venue in Aurora, and on Aug. 20, 2020, the 99 Hops House unveiled a sportsbook packed with televisions and big projection screens. 99 Hops House is located one floor above the main casino offering food and drink, along with sports betting through ticket windows and at self-serve kiosks. There are additional kiosks spread around the casino floor.

The online/mobile version of the sportsbook has yet to go live. Though operator Penn National has not divulged how it will be branded, Vice President of Hollywood Joliet Lydia Garvey told US Bets in August 2020, “everyone knows of our relationship with Barstool Sports, and we’ll look to see if we can capitalize on that when the time is right.”

Rivers Sportsbook – Casino Des Plaines

Rivers Sportsbook was the only sportsbook to open before the pandemic began to grip the U.S., and it did so with a March 9 launch at which former Chicago Blackhawks forward and NBC Sports commentator Eddie Olcyzk placed the first bet: $100 for the Chicago White Sox to win the American League pennant (the Sox sadly did not even make the postseason).

The book at Rivers has stadium seating and a high-definition wall for an immersive experience. Patrons can bet at teller windows or kiosks, and Rivers also offers BetBuilder technology online for a more streamlined experience. Through BetRivers, Rivers was also the first to offer online sports betting in Illinois on June 18, 2020. The online sports betting app includes promotions such as a risk free bet or deposit match.

Caesars Sportsbook (formerly William Hill) – Grand Victoria Casino

William Hill Sportsbook had a soft opening of its retail sportsbook on Aug. 1, 2020. It was the third such opening in a month for William Hill, which opened its Colorado sportsbook with kiosks in late July, and its Capital One Arena location in Washington, D.C. also on Aug. 1.

The book at the Grand Victoria, which is located in suburban Chicago, has flat-screen televisions throughout and high-top tables and comfortable chairs, so fans can stick around and watch games. Patrons can place bets at three full-service teller windows and also place their first risk free bets online as part of the ongoing promotions the company offers new customers. William Hill gained market access to Illinois sports betting through Caesars Entertainment, which bought the company in 2020. In August 2021 Caesars Sportsbook replaced the William Hill brand nationwide, including IL.

FanDuel Sportsbook — Par-a-Dice Casino

FanDuel may have gone in reverse order in Illinois — it launched online wagering in the Land of Lincoln on Aug. 28, 2020 — but it was able to narrowly beat the kickoff to the NFL season with its retail launch in East Peoria on Sept. 10. The sportsbook, which was put together in a six-week sprint, is located just off the casino area proper and includes manual teller spaces and self-serve kiosks. Sizable screens provide betting lines and information for sports bettors. As mentioned, FanDuel is an Illinois online sports betting leader in offering new customers risk free bets, sometimes up to $1,000.

PointsBet Sportsbook — Hawthorne Race Course

PointsBet also commenced online wagering before retail betting, but it made a notable splash on its Sept. 30, 2020, launch at Hawthorne Race Course. Hawthorne became just the third horse racing track in the United States to offer live betting along with Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

The sports betting area in the lobby is temporary as plans are underway to turn Hawthorne into a racino with a target opening date of December 2021. Still, a lot has been put in a relatively small space: Bettors will find wagering kiosks in a relatively compact area, save for a few that are located in the VIP area where patrons can watch the horses make their initial turn on the 1-mile dirt oval.

More land-based sportsbooks coming soon

In total, up to 10 casinos, three race tracks and seven professional sports venues could possibly seek Illinois sports betting licenses. Professional teams whose sports venues seat at least 17,000 can pay a $10 million licensing fee to have on-site sportsbooks at their Illinois sports facilities.

Of the three existing casinos in Illinois yet to offer sports betting, it appears Jumer’s in Rock Island is further along than the Harrah’s properties in Joliet and Metropolis. Jumer’s was bought by Twin River Worldwide Holdings for $120 million in October, and Twin River recently changed its business name to Bally’s Corporation Nov. 9.

The Latest Illinois Sports Betting News

Illinois sports betting timetable

As mentioned earlier, the first bet was taken in Illinois on March 9, 2020, at Rivers Casino, and days later the Argosy Sportsbook also opened its doors. But both sportsbooks did so as the U.S. began dealing with the coronavirus crisis, and less than a week later, retail casinos and sportsbooks were shut down indefinitely. BetRivers launched its mobile site on June 18.

After casinos in Illinois were allowed to reopen July 1, William Hill, DraftKings Sportsbook and both Hollywood Casinos joined the retail mix in August, with DraftKings Sportsbook also launching its mobile sports betting app on Aug. 19, 2020. FanDuel, PointsBet, and William Hill followed with online products soon after.

The first retail licenses were issued in June 2020, so it’s likely that stand-alone mobile apps without B+M affiliation will be able to launch in early 2022, given the parameters of the 18-month “penalty box.” The waiting period is actually longer than 18 months — the IGB has 18 months from June 11 to review stand-alone mobile applications, and then another three months to determine which operators it will award licenses to.

Sports betting bill particulars

Illinois’ sports betting law didn’t turn out the way lawmakers initially envisioned. Politics played a huge role in the legalization of sports betting in Illinois, and stakeholders almost immediately referred to the bill as “not the best.”

Sports betting champions and state legislators Bob Rita and Mike Zalewski had to do a lot of horse trading with Governor J.B Pritzker and his allies to get sports betting tacked onto a capital bill and eventually passed. That meant including a mandate for official league data, requiring in-person registration for the first 18 months, delaying the launch of stand-alone mobile platforms, banning betting in Illinois on the state’s collegiate sports teams, and including some tricky branding rules.

The legislation also includes a self-exclusion program for those with a gambling problem. By the end of it, stakeholders were happy to have sports betting in Illinois, along with the substantial tax revenue it will create, but had plenty to unpack.

The ‘penalty box’

The defining discussion on the way to legal sports betting in Illinois revolved on what was called the “penalty box.”

Designed to punish daily fantasy and sports betting titans FanDuel and DraftKings Sportsbook, the penalty box came into being after Neil Bluhm, owner of the Rivers Casino, in May 2019 asked lawmakers to keep FanDuel and DraftKings Sportsbook out of the Illinois sports betting market for three years. Bluhm said the two had operated their daily fantasy businesses illegally after an earlier decision by the state’s attorney general.

FanDuel and DraftKings Sportsbook pushed back, including briefly running ads lobbying against the delay, and lawmakers offered up a compromise of 18 months.

In June 2020, DraftKings Sportsbook found an entry into the state through a casino partnership, and FanDuel wasn’t far behind.

College carve-out

Lawmakers also compromised with stakeholders by honoring a request by state universities to ban betting in Illinois on college sports. Rather than completely prohibit that, Illinois lawmakers offered up the so-called “college carve-out,” in which betting on colleges in general is allowed, but bettors cannot place wagers on Illinois sports teams (Univ. of Illinois, Northwestern, etc.). Other states, including New Jersey, have a similar “carve-out.”

In addition, retail casinos wanted a requirement to include in-person registration for mobile accounts. The compromise is to require it until the first mobile-only sportsbook is approved before switching to remote registration. Pritzker’s executive order and subsequent renewals temporarily removed this requirement, but it is now back in effect.

Official league data

In 2019, Illinois was one of just a few states in which lawmakers mandated that sportsbooks purchase “official league data.” The data mandate means that sportsbooks must purchase data from the pro leagues or their designees, and there is concern among operators that this will create a monopoly situation.

Tennessee was the first state to include this requirement in its law. Illinois quickly followed suit, as did Michigan. Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly also passed a bill with the data mandate. Mobile sports betting went live in Virginia in January 2021.

The capital bill that sports betting in Illinois was attached to included all kinds of infrastructure improvements. Its passage was the result of many years of work by lawmakers and brought a round of applause in the Senate when it finally passed.

Key components of Illinois sports betting law:

  • It is legal to bet on college and professional sports, but betting on Illinois college teams is prohibited
  • In-person registration is required until the first mobile-only platform is licensed
  • Mobile-only platforms must wait to go live until 18 months after retail sportsbooks or mobile platforms tethered to retail books do so
  • Illinois requires sportsbooks to purchase “official league data”
  • The legal age for sports betting is 21
  • Sports betting revenue will be funneled to the “Rebuild Illinois” fund, which will provide for road improvements, education, and other good works
  • Programs for those with a gambling program: The sports betting law includes the self-exclusion policy for those with a gambling problem that was created by the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) in 2002. IGB administers two programs to help those with a gambling problem: a self-exclusion program and a gambling problem registry. Though not a part of the sports betting law, it is worth mentioning that the Illinois Department of Human Services also has services available for those with a gambling problem

Taxes and fees

  • Number of “master licenses” allowed: Up to 23
  • Number of mobile-only licenses: 3
  • One mobile “skin” is allowed per retail sportsbook, race track & sports venue
  • Licensing fees range from $3 million to $20 million.  It will cost professional sports venues $10 million for a license, and stand-alone mobile operators will pay $20 million, making Illinois one of the priciest states in which to get a license
  • Tax rate: 15%

Banking options

Although methods may vary from one sportsbook to another, Illinois sports betting in general will offer a number of viable depositing and withdrawal methods which are common in other states with safe, regulated legal sports betting. These options include:

  • ACH (eCheck)
  • Online banking
  • PayPal
  • Cash at the casino cages
  • Site-specific prepaid debit card
  • Skrill (e-wallet)
  • Paper check
  • PayNearMe: Pay with cash at any eligible 7-Eleven or CVS
  • Visa / MasterCard credit & debit cards

Illinois Sports Betting FAQ

How old must you be to bet and are there any restrictions?

The legal age to place a sports bet is 21. Any restrictions apply mostly to athletes, coaches, team owners and the like, barring them from betting on their own teams, and in some cases more. Though there are no other restrictions written into law on who can bet, those with a gambling problem who place themselves on a self-exclusion list will be banned from betting.

Will sports betting be available at retail locations, such as convenience stores?

No, only at licensed retail casinos or via online/mobile apps.

Where can bettors be when placing a wager?

All sports bets need to occur within the Illinois boundaries and will be managed by geo-targeting technology. Patrons will be able to bet in person at retail sports betting locations and by using kiosks or by using a sports betting app.

Is in-play or live betting allowed?

Yes.

What types of bets are available?

Illinois sportsbooks will offer the standard bet types, like straight bets, totals, moneylines, futures, parlays, player and game props, teasers, and round robins. However, fans cannot place any bets on Illinois collegiate teams.

How can I deposit and withdraw money from my online account?

Depends, but a safe bet will be using common methods such as prepaid cards, Paypal and ACH transfer.

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Illinois sports betting journey

The state’s relationship with casino gaming dates to 1991, when riverboat casino gambling was made legal in Illinois. Yes, paddle-steamer boats could operate casinos, but only while cruising the state’s waterways. In 1999, the state made it legal for the riverboats to dock and open their casinos. A year later, Illinois became the first state to allow for the sale of online lottery tickets.

Groundwork laid in 2018

The discussion about whether to legalize sports betting really ramped up in the summer of 2018, when the legislature began holding gaming hearings. The first hearing was informational in nature. Stakeholders and municipalities were invited to an Aug. 21, 2018, hearing in Chicago, where they joined others in the gaming industry in revealing what they hoped sports betting would look like.

Two months later, the Joint Committee on Revenue and Finance held a hearing on sports betting that made it clear lawmakers would prioritize sports betting in 2019. That hearing also laid at least some of the groundwork for a sports betting bill.

In 2019, Governor deems sports betting a priority

In February 2019, Pritzker made it clear he viewed legal sports betting as a priority. Once the 2019 session started, Representative Rita passed the torch to Representative Zalewski, and the pair held multiple hearings in which they listened to the professional leagues argue for a royalty, entertained a 25% tax, hammered out details of the “penalty box,” heard from university officials, and more.

Operators consider taxes of 10% or below to be optimal, and Illinois lawmakers settled on 15%, which is considered on the higher end among states with sports betting but still allows operators to turn a profit. In the end, there was plenty of give and take, but the political will existed to make sports betting legal in Illinois. Even with the momentum on its side, the bill to make sports betting legal in Illinois didn’t stand on its own, passing instead as part of a massive capital bill.

Once Pritzker signed the bill in late June, it was a sprint to get sports betting up and running. The Illinois Gaming Board opened a public comment period over the summer, began developing regulations, and in December 2019 opened the sports betting application process. 

Though the IGB approved temporary rules ahead of the first sportsbook opening, it continues to refine its rules packages.

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