Illinois Sports Betting 2021
Illinois rolled out sports betting in 2020 with a few starts and stops, some quirky rules, but significant upside potential. In-person wagering began in March, but casinos and sportsbook wagering were shut down less than a week later by the coronavirus pandemic. Confusion over a rule requiring bettors to register in-person at a casino to open an online account — three times temporarily suspended by the governor — has limited the early progress of mobile sports betting, which launched in June.
The state’s betting laws are designed to initially benefit retail sportsbooks and penalize online-only operations. But eventually, bettors in the country’s sixth-most populous state can expect a robust market of sports gambling opportunities, including placing bets at iconic sports venues, such as Wrigley Field.
How Do We Review Illinois’ Best Betting Sites?
Bookies.com reviews sports betting sites from every state with legal sports betting. Our experts know what bettors want and sign up for accounts to determine which offer the best mobile betting and overall experience. Among the key factors we consider:
Safety: We only review sites that are legal, regulated and licensed by the Illinois Gaming Board. We do not review or recommend any offshore sports betting sites.
Pricing: Illinois bettors should always be looking for the best odds and prices, which can vary significantly between sportsbooks.
Bonuses and promotions: Each sportsbook offers a variety of bonus offers and promotions. We read the fine print to determine which offers are the most lucrative in the growing Illinois sports betting market.
Mobile options: Most sports wagers are placed through mobile devices. We test mobile betting apps for ease of use and speed to determine which provide the best overall mobile experience.
Is Sports Betting Legal in Illinois?
Yes. Sports betting legislation was signed into law in 2019 and went live at in-person locations and online in 2020.
As of September, six retail and two online sportsbooks were operating in Illinois, with the number expected to grow significantly. The state’s sports betting law allows for wagers at casinos, racetracks, off-track betting facilities, pro sports venues, lottery outlets and online. That means Illinois sports bettors will eventually have a wide selection of operators to choose from, though state law mandates that internet-only operators wait 18 months before launching mobile platforms.
The coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with a requirement that bettors must first register at a casino to open an online account. Governor. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order suspending the in-person registration requirement, allowed it to lapse, then reinstated the order until at least Sept. 19.
Benefits of Legal Online Sports Betting in Illinois
Online and mobile wagering isn’t only the future of sports betting, it’s the present. About 80% of legal sports wagers in the U.S. are made on computers or smartphones, and it’s predicted that number will increase to 90% within the next decade.
Among the benefits:
Convenience and access: Online sports wagering allows bettors to wager from their comfort of their home or on their smartphone or tablet from anywhere in the state, rather than making a potentially long trip to a casino.
Value: Having multiple online accounts allows sports bettors to shop and compare the best odds and prices in minutes.
Bonuses and promotions: Online operators offer sign-up bonuses and valuable promotions such as odds boosts and parlay insurance, none of which are offered at in-person sportsbooks.
Payment options: Illinois allows a wide range of banking options to deposit and withdraw funds from your account.
Illinois’ Land-Based Sportsbook Locations
Six land-based sportsbooks are operating inside Illinois casinos, with several more on the way. The current locations:
- Argosy Casino Alton
- DraftKings at Casino Queen
- Grand Victoria Casino
- Hollywood Aurora
- Hollywood Joliet
- River Casino Des Plaines
A Closer Look at Each Sportsbook in Illinois
Argosy Casino Alton Sportsbook
Address: 1 Piasa Street, Alton
About the sportsbook: Across Mississippi River from St. Louis. Operated by Penn National Gaming. Four teller windows, 14 betting kiosks.
DraftKings at Casino Queen
Address: 200 South Front Street, East St. Louis
About the sportsbook: DraftKings opened temporary retail sportsbook inside East St. Louis casino in August. DraftKings also offers Illinois online sports betting platform.
Grand Victoria Casino William Hill Sportsbook
Address: 250 South Grove Avenue, Elgin
About the sportsbook: Casino located 40 miles northwest from Chicago is owned by Caesars, sportsbook operated by William Hill. Sportsbook opened in August with three full-service windows.
Hollywood Aurora Sportsbook
Address: 1 West New York Street, Aurora
About the sportsbook: Located about 40 miles west of Chicago. Opened in August with four ticket windows and 10 self-service kiosks. One of three Illinois casinos owned by Penn National Gaming.
Hollywood Joliet Sportsbook
Address: 777 Hollywood Boulevard, Joliet
About the sportsbook: Opened the same day as sister property Hollywood Aurora Sportsbook. Five ticket windows, six self-service kiosks, with additional kiosks on casino floor. Located about 45 miles southwest of Chicago.
Rivers Sportsbook Casino Des Plaines
Address: 3000 South River Road, Des Plaines
About the sportsbook: The first sportsbook to accept a legal wager in Illinois after opening in March. Five betting windows, 30 wagering kiosks. Located two miles north of O’Hare International Airport. Rivers also offers mobile sports betting platform.
Online Sportsbooks Operating in Illinois
Until 2022, Illinois online sportsbooks are required to partner with an existing land-based gambling entity. Currently, the state has two online sports betting operators:
Under Illinois law, online-only sportsbooks face a more difficult launch. In an effort to give retail sportsbooks a head start, online-only operators cannot begin operations until 18 months after the first retail license was issued. That means a likely starting date of 2022. In addition, online-only operators must pay $20 million for a mobile-only sports betting license, compared to $10 million for a master sports betting license.
It’s generally believed the law was written this way to penalize Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) operators DraftKings and FanDuel for operating DFS games in Illinois despite an opinion from the state’s former attorney general that the games violated state law.
To save money and avoid the 18-month “penalty box” period, DraftKings instead struck a deal with Casino Queen, allowing the DraftKings sportsbook to immediately offer retail and online wagering. FanDuel may do the same and is reportedly in talks with both Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville and Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria.
Illinois Sports Betting Apps
The BetRivers sports betting app was the first to launch in Illinois, followed by DraftKings and FanDuel. Several others launched in the months that followed.
While each sports betting app is different in design, speed and ease of use, all provide Illinois bettors the convenience of placing wagers any time of day, from anywhere inside the state on a mobile device. The apps contain the same elements you would find on your computer and are free to download.
Bonus Offers and Promotions at Illinois Sports Betting Sites
Eventually, Illinois is expected to become one of the more competitive marketplaces for online sports betting. That means bettors can expect a variety of bonus offers and promotions as operators vie to sign up new customers and retain existing ones.
Offers may include a sign-up bonus, which is paid after signing up; or a deposit match, in which the online operator matches up to 100% of your initial deposit. Most bonuses require that the money be wagered before it can be redeemed.
Promotions include risk-free bets and odds boosts. A risk-free bet means if your wager loses, you are credited with a bonus bet of the same amount. An odds boost provides more favorable odds on a specific team or game.
Types of Betting Available in Illinois
All of the popular sports betting options are available in Illinois, including:
Point spread: A team is favored by a certain number of points or goals. Bettors can choose the favorite or underdog with their respective odds.
Moneyline: A wager on a team to win a game. The moneyline odds for each team are set by the sportsbook.
Parlay: A single bet linking two or more games. All games must win for the parlay to cash. The more teams in the parlay, the higher the payoff.
Over/under: Also known as a totals bet. A wager that the combined score of both teams will be over or under the number set by the sportsbook.
Futures: A wager to be determined sometime in the future, such as betting on a team to win next year’s Super Bowl.
In-game betting: Digital wagers placed after a game has started. Online sports operators set in-game betting odds based on computer algorithms.
Best Illinois Sports Betting Markets
Chicago is one of the top pro sports towns in the U.S., with more than a half-dozen major league franchises. The state’s next most populous cities are all located within the Chicagoland area such as Aurora, Naperville and Joliet.
East St. Louis is also a key market, located across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. East St. Louis sportsbooks draws a large percentage of customers from Missouri, which does not have legal sports wagering.
In terms of pro sports betting, all of Chicago’s teams attract a great deal of interest, to the point where it’s hard to determine the most popular. That list includes the Bears (NFL), Bulls (NBA), Cubs and White Sox (MLB) and Blackhawks (NHL). The popularity of all those teams assures that Illinois sportsbooks can expect plenty of action throughout the year.
You can expect betting markets on all professional and major college sports, as well as soccer golf, tennis, motorsports, MMA, boxing and more, though you can’t bet on college games involving in-state teams.
Sports Leagues and Illinois Sportsbook Partnerships
All of the major sports leagues with Chicago teams have signed partnerships with sportsbooks or casinos. For example, the NBA, NHL and MLB are partners with MGM Resorts and Fan Duel; the NBA and NHL with William Hill; and the NFL with Caesars. Several individual teams have also struck deals.
Most of Chicago’s pro sports teams will be involved in sports betting in some form. The state’s betting law allows up to seven betting licenses at sports venues with capacities over 17,000, or within a five-block radius of those facilities. That means Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, the United Center and Chicagoland Speedway could be sports betting sites in the not-too-distant future, provided they are approved for a license and pay the $10 million license fee.
The state’s three racetracks are also eligible to receive a sports gambling license and Hawthorne Race Course was awarded one in late July.
How to Sign Up to an Illinois Online Sportsbook
The coronavirus pandemic made the sign-up process a little more complicated in Illinois.
The state’s betting law requires that bettors must register for an online sports betting account at the physical casino partnered with your online operator. The coronavirus made that difficult, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order in early June suspending the in-person registration requirement. The order expired in July, then was reinstated in August and then extended again in September 2020. As it stands now, bettors can sign up with online operators BetRivers, DraftKings or FanDuel through at least October 17 without visiting a casino.
After that it’s easy. Simply register for an account by filling out some personal information, such as name, address, date of birth and last four digits of Social Security number (to verify identity, age and prevent underage gambling). Then make a deposit to fund your account and you are ready to wager.
Payment Methods Available at Illinois Sportsbooks
Some of the most widely used methods to fund your sports betting account include:
- Credit cards/Debit cards: Nearly all Illinois online sportsbooks will accept credit and debit cards, though some financial institutions are still blocking the transactions even though they are legal just out of policy. Credit card companies that do allow for such transactions may also add fees, treating the transaction as a cash advance. Visa and Mastercard are the most popular, though some casinos and sportsbooks also accept American Express.
Deposit and Withdrawal Process at Online Sportsbooks
Online sportsbooks want to make transactions as easy as possible, but some methods work better than others. Deposits can be processed in minutes, withdrawals usually take longer.
Play+, as we have explained, is a highly recommended method for its ease of use and reliability.
Setting up an account with e-wallets such as PayPal and Neteller allow players to easily make deposits and withdrawals to and from their online sportsbooks for low fees. Bank transfers do the same, though transactions take longer.
Credit/debit cards are the most popular deposit option, though some financial institutions will not process gambling transactions. Few online casinos permit credit card withdrawals.
PayNearMe is a cash-only deposit option available at an Illinois 7-Eleven, Family Dollar or CVS Pharmacy, with the money transferred to your online sportsbook account through a barcode.
Paper checks remain a viable method for withdrawals at most online sportsbooks. If time’s not a factor, request a check and one will be mailed to you.
Latest Illinois Sports Betting Numbers
ILLINOIS SPORTS BETTING HANDLE, MARCH vs. FEBRUARY
|Total handle||Mobile Handle||Retail Handle|
|Change||Up 24.3%||Up 24.2%||Up 25.4%|
Updated May 10
A History of Illinois Sports Betting
2018: Illinois lawmakers introduce the first of several Illinois sports betting bills. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court clears the way for states to legalize sports betting, overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.
2019: With Gov. J.B. Pritzker publicly supporting sports betting and including its potential revenue in his proposed state budget, lawmaker Michael Zalewski introduces new sports wagering legislation. With multiple potential stakeholders involved, negotiations are difficult and amendments are added and removed.
Lawmakers pass sports betting bill on final day of legislative session and Pritzker signs bill into law in June. Law allows both online and retail sports betting (at casinos, racetracks, sports venues, lottery locations), but online-only platforms are limited to three license-holders, who must wait 18 months before entering the marketplace.
2020: First retail sports wager placed at Rivers Casino in March. Within a week, Illinois casinos are ordered to close due to coronavirus pandemic. Governor issues emergency order in June temporarily suspending in-person registration requirement, allowing BetRivers online wagering to launch on June 18.
After emergency order lapses and is subsequently reinstated, DraftKings partners with Casino Queen and opens state’s second online sportsbook in August. By September, six retail and two online sports are operating in the state.
Online Betting FAQ
What is the legal age of sports betting in Illinois?
The legal minimum age for sports betting in Illinois is 21.
When did sports betting go live in Illinois?
BetRivers became the first online sportsbook to go live in Illinois on June 18, 2020. The Rivers Casino Des Plaines accepted the first legal retail sports bet March 9, 2020.
Is sports betting legal in all states?
No. Sports betting is legal in 22 states and Washington D.C. Several states will be added to the list if voters approve sports betting referendums in November.
How many online sportsbooks are in Illinois?
As of September 2020, there were two, BetRivers and DraftKings at Casino Queen. More are expected to launch in the coming months.
Is sports betting legal in Illinois?
Yes. In-person and online sports betting were signed into law in 2019 and began in 2020.
Who regulates online sports betting in Illinois?
The Illinois Gaming Board regulates online sports betting in Illinois.
Why should I bet on legal Illinois sports betting sites over offshore?
Legal Illinois sports betting sites are licensed and regulated by the Illinois Gaming Board, which provides bettors with a level of protection. Offshore betting sites operate by circumventing federal and state laws, are unregulated, and may abruptly shut down, causing account holders to lose access to their funds with no recourse.
What sports can you bet on in Illinois?
Nearly all professional and major college sports. The list includes football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, golf, tennis, motorsports, boxing, mixed martial arts, horse racing and many international sports. Wagering on college games involving in-state teams such as the University of Illinois and Northwestern is not permitted.
Do you have to be in Illinois to place a bet?
Yes. Bettors must be physically within state lines to place a wager. Online sportsbooks use geolocation technology to track a bettor’s location. An online sports betting account can be set up from anywhere.
What are the sports betting tax rates in Illinois?
Sportsbooks will pay a tax rate of 15% of gross adjusted revenue (higher than neighboring Indiana’s 9.5% and Iowa’s 6.75%). Master license fees for casinos, racetracks and sporting arenas cost $10 million. Online-only sports betting licenses (limited to three) each cost $20 million.
Where can you legally bet on sports in Illinois?
At sportsbooks inside six of the state’s casinos and through online operators BetRivers and DraftKings. Additional retail and online operators plan to join the market soon.
About the Author
Chet Fussman is a writer for Bookies.com. Fussman is a former horse racing writer and longtime sports editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. He's a poker and blackjack player and frequent sports bettor, who plans to send the U.S. Supreme Court a thank-you card for clearing the way for states to adopt sports wagering. Fussman's philosophy: Don't let the bad beats overshadow your winning ones.
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