Update – online sportsbook registration now available: Dec. 11: Governor Pritzker again renewed an order allowing remote registration of IL sports betting accounts to continue. The governor had previously allowed the order to expire in July, before reinstating it in late August and renewing it each of the last three months. The window is now open until Jan. 9, and renewals (should Gov. Pritzker opt to continue with renewals) will take place on a month-to-month basis until at least January when the General Assembly next convenes. There is no guarantee that the ability to set up your account remotely will continue indefinitely.
Bet on sports online in Illinois now
It required an extra few days and a lot of wrangling, but Illinois lawmakers finally pushed legal sports betting through the state legislature as part of a massive capital bill on June 3, 2019, and Governor J.B. Pitzker signed the bill on June 28. The bill, SB 690, is 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 was placed at Rivers Casino on March 9, 2020.
Illinois’ new law allows for statewide mobile and retail sports betting at casinos, racetracks, off-track betting parlors, and professional sports venues. There are no tribal casinos in Illinois. The state 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 betting officially began 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 go online, along with online statuses and current application statuses:
|Online Sportsbook (Actual or Projected)||Online Launch Date||Casino/Sportsbook Venue||Owner/Operator|
|BetRivers||June 2020||Rivers Casino Sportsbook||Rush Street Gaming|
|DraftKings Sportsbook||Aug. 2020||DraftKings at Casino Queen||DraftKings Sportsbook|
|PointsBet||Sep. 2020||Hawthorne Race Course||PointsBet|
|FanDuel||Sep. 2020||Par-A-Dice Casino East Peoria||Boyd Gaming|
|William Hill||Sep. 2020||Grand Victoria||William Hill|
|FanDuel||TBD||Fairmount Park Racetrack||FanDuel
|TBD||TBD||Hollywood Casino Aurora||Penn National|
|Unibet||TBD||Sportsbook at Argosy Casino Alton||Penn National|
|Barstool Sportsbook||TBD||Hollywood Casino Joliet||Penn National|
|Caesars Sportsbook||TBD||Harrah's Metropolis||Harrah's|
|Caesars Sportsbook||TBD||Harrah's Joliet||Harrah's|
|FOX Bet (speculation)||TBD||Jumer's Casino Rock Island||Delaware North|
BetRivers became the first online/mobile sportsbook to launch in Illinois, when it did so 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 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 professional sports venue. Pritzker’s executive order has removed that requirement for most of the past six months.
The order was not renewed in July, but it was renewed in August, September, October, and November. Remote registration, which allows bettors to register for online accounts from their mobile devices or computers rather than in person, is in place until at least Dec. 12, 2020. Thus, it may lapse again, if not renewed, so take advantage while you can.
The new law also requires internet-only operators to wait at least 18 months before launching stand-alone mobile platforms. The waiting period (find more details below) began June 11 when the IGB issued seven Master Sports Betting Licenses. However, both DraftKings and FanDuel (in that order) found ways to get into the market sooner.
DraftKings, FanDuel find path into market
On July 23, DraftKings announced that its partner, Casino Queen, would rebrand as “DraftKings at Casino Queen,” and DraftKings 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 platforms.
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 late August.
With Fairmount Park being granted a sports wagering 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 Par-A-Dice’s location in 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.
The impending move by FanDuel is not expected to leave Par-A-Dice Casino without sports betting 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, once approved, 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 wagering: Argosy Casino Alton, DraftKings at Casino Queen, FanDuel Par-A-Dice, Grand Victoria Casino, Rivers Casino, and Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet.
Hawthorne Race Course is the only horse racing track currently offering retail sports wagering. 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, which is located 12 miles from the track.
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
|Sportsbook||Casino||Opening Date||Launch of Online Sportsbook|
|BetRivers||Rivers Casino Sportsbook||3/9/2020||6/18/2020|
|DraftKings Sportsbook||DraftKings at Casino Queen, East St. Louis||8/5/2020||8/5/2020|
|Penn National||Sportsbook at Argosy Casino Alton||3/12/2020||TBD|
|William Hill||Grand Victoria||8/6/2020||9/15/2020|
|Penn National / Barstool||Hollywood Casino Aurora||8/20/2020||TBD|
|Penn National / Barstool||Hollywood Casino Joliet||8/20/2020||TBD|
|FanDuel Sportsbook||Par-A-Dice Casino||9/10/2020||8/24/2020|
|Points Bet Sportsbook||Hawthorne Race Course||9/30/2020||9/12/2020|
Rivers Sportsbook was first to launch at its retail location, Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Ill., in March 2020, and 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 casinos and sportsbooks 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 opened its retail location at Casino Queen in East St. Louis 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, while PointsBet started doing so Sept. 30 at Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney.
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 casinos were ordered closed. Located in suburban St. Louis, the Argosy sportsbook is operated by Penn National. The book features four teller windows, 14 kiosks and 36 HDTVs. 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 skin for Argosy as Penn National continues its approach of primarily establishing Barstool Sports on a state-by-state basis.
DraftKings at Casino Queen
DraftKings was the first to find its away around the online-only delay to launch, when it opened a temporary retail sportsbook at Casino Queen on Aug. 5. DraftKings is aiming to open its permanent space during the 2020 NFL season. DraftKings 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, customers can currently sign up remotely for the DraftKings at Casino Queen digital platform, where DraftKings is offering a variety of unique promotions.
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 four ticket windows and 10 self-service kiosks in the sportsbook, which is located in the center of the casino floor. Penn National is the operator, but as of August 2020, it was unclear under which brand Penn National would launch Hollywood Aurora’s digital platform.
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 with 37 televisions and two big projection screens. 99 Hops House is located one floor above the main casino food and drink along with sports betting at five ticket windows and at six self-serve kiosks. There are an additional eight 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 states across 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 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.
William Hill Sportsbook – Grand Victoria Casino
William Hill 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, is open daily from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and in addition to flat-screen televisions throughout, also has high-top tables and comfortable chairs, so fans can stick around and watch games. Patrons can place bets at three full-service teller windows. William Hill gained market access into Illinois through Caesars Entertainment, which now owns William Hill after an acquisition expected to be finalized in March 2021.
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 — 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 next to the Tin Lizard Bar and Grill. The actual sportsbook area includes three manual teller spaces and six self-serve kiosks, with the latter all partitioned by plexiglass per COVID-19 protocols. A total of 10 large screens — six in a 2×3 bank and four that span the length above the self-serve kiosks — provide betting lines and information for sports bettors.
PointsBet Sportsbook — Hawthorne Race Course
PointsBet also commenced online wagering before retail betting, but it made a notable splash on its Sept. 30 launch at Hawthorne Race Course. It 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 26 self-serve kiosks in a relatively compact area, save for four that are located in the VIP area where patrons can watch the horses make their initial turn on the 1-mile dirt oval. The kiosks are grouped together in bunches of four or six, and are partitioned by plexiglass per COVID-19 protocols, and six-foot social distancing markers are visible at both the self-serve kiosks and the three manned teller windows.
More land-based sportsbooks coming soon
In total, up to 10 casinos in Illinois, three race tracks and seven professional sports venues could possibly seek 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.
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 on Nov. 9.
The Latest Illinois News
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker issued his seventh renewal of Executive Order 2020-41 on Friday, furthering the suspension of the in-person registration requirement for access to mobile sports wagering until Feb. 6.
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Each Monday, our “What’s On Tap,” series will preview the week ahead in the world of sports betting. Come here for a summary of upcoming financial happenings, legislative and regulatory meetings, industry conferences, top games scheduled for the week, and much more. Also, check out our weekly review Get A Grip and Wide World of Gambling at US Bets for a look back at last week’s relevant news. Tuesday, January 5 Bama receiver Smith still overwhelming favorite to win Heisman Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith likely sealed his Heisman Trophy bid on New Year's Day with a scintillating three-touchdown performance in a College Football Playoff...
The state of Illinois announced itself as a major player in the sports betting industry in 2020 despite the national pandemic, and there is still room for bigger and better things in 2021.
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 and both Hollywood Casinos joined the retail mix in August, with DraftKings also launching mobile Aug. 19. FanDuel began taking mobile bets first on Oct. 28, and was able to get Par-A-Dice open for retail sports betting in time for the NFL season opener Sept. 10. PointsBet also went mobile, then retail — it took its first wagers online Sept. 12 and its first bets at Hawthorne on Sept. 30. William Hill had the most recent launch of any sports betting operator, taking its first mobile wagers Sept. 15.
The first retail licenses were issued in June 2020, so it’s likely that stand-alone mobile apps 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, 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 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 on Illinois colleges, and including some tricky branding rules. By the end of it, stakeholders were happy to have sports betting, but had plenty to unpack.
The ‘penalty box’
The defining discussion on the way to legal sports betting revolved on what was called the “penalty box.”
Designed to punish daily fantasy and sports betting titans FanDuel and DraftKings, the penalty box came into being after Neil Bluhm, owner of the Rivers Casino, in May 2019 asked lawmakers to keep FanDuel and DraftKings out of the Illinois digital 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 pushed back, including briefly running ads lobbying against the delay, and lawmakers offered up a compromise of 18 months.
In June 2020, DraftKings found an entry into the state through the Casino Queen, while FanDuel eventually did likewise via Par-A-Dice Casino. That was not its first choice, having entered negotiations with Fairmount Park in March in hopes of launching a mobile platform shortly after purchasing the track and getting licensed. While that deal appears to be in the process of moving forward to be finalized, no timetable has been established for when FanDuel will make a formal transition for both retail and online sports betting.
Lawmakers also compromised with stakeholders by honoring a request by state universities to ban betting 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 state teams.
In addition, retail casinos wanted a requirement to include in-person registration for mobile accounts, and the compromise is to require that until the first mobile-only sportsbook is approved before switching to remote registration. Pritzker’s executive order and subsequent renewals have temporarily removed this requirement.
Official league data
In 2019, Illinois was one of three 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, though as of April 2, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam had not signed Virginia’s sports betting bill into law.
The capital bill that sports betting was tacked onto in Illinois includes 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.
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%
Although methods may vary from one sportsbook to another, Illinois online sportsbooks 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
- 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 problem gamblers 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 mobile device.
Is in-play or live betting allowed?
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.
What is Chicago's greatest sports team?
DAAAAAAAAAAA BEARS DA BEARS DA BEARS.
Illinois sports betting journey
Illinois’ relationship with casino gaming dates to 1991, when it first legalized riverboat gambling. Boats could operate their casinos 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 Rita 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, Rita held a Joint Committee on Revenue and Finance 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, Rita passed the torch to 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, and sports betting 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.