If you have watched any movies about Chicago, you likely have seen scenes that involve gambling – probably something looking pretty shady in a back room featuring some less than desirable characters. This interpretation is not far from the truth, to be honest – the state of Illinois has had a long love affair with gambling that didn’t entirely match the legislation. However, a lot has changed in the midwestern state over the decades, and recent updates to legislation should make for a significant change to the overall gambling landscape for good. This page will give you an overview of gambling of all types in the state.
Sports Betting in Illinois
There is a prevailing culture of sports in Illinois. Across all the major sports you will find both professional and college teams, and Chicago is known as one of the best sports cities on the planet. However, until recently, all forms of sports betting were considered illegal in the state. Let’s be clear – there was still a significant amount of betting taking place, but all of it was taking place outside of the law.
This all changed in recent years. With the repeal of PASPA in 2018, many states rushed to legalize sports betting, and Illinois was not far behind. After debate for several months and several versions of bills being presented, the Illinois State Legislature finally passed a law making sports betting legal in June 2019. Some highlights of the bill include:
- Licenses will be initially awarded to land-based casinos, racetracks, the Illinois lottery, and up to seven stadiums
- Licensing fees will run up to $10 million for a four year period
- Licensed sportsbook operators will pay tax rates of 15%
While there were a lot of dramatic moments leading up to the final vote on legislation, the bill did make it through with some minor details, making it different than other states. The good news is that this bill has passed; the bad news is that there still isn’t legal sports betting in Illinois. Applications were to be received in December 2019 which means that likely we will see the first bets being taken late in the spring of 2020.
One interesting part of the legislation was to include sports venues as potential licensed sports betting locations. This was the first such language in any of the sports betting legislation seen up until its passing in the United States. It will be very interesting to watch how this is administered and how other states react to this part of the Illinois law.
Online Sports Betting
As part of the sports betting legislation that passed in June 2019, licensed operators will be able to offer both online and mobile betting to Illinois residents. There will also be three standalone digital sports betting licenses awarded, but they will not be awarded for 18 months after the launch of the first retail sportsbook. This measure is meant to punish companies who have been taking real money for bets online in an illegal environment. These licenses also come with a hefty $20 million price tag. Regardless, there will no doubt be a bidding war for them as they become available. Companies like Draft Kings, Fanduel and Poker Stars are the biggest offenders in the mind of the Illinois government, and this is meant to make them pay for their past indiscretions.
For the initial land-based and digital license holders, clients will be able to access their accounts via mobile apps or websites. However, much like other states, anyone wanting to set up an account in Illinois will have to register their account in-person at a facility. While cumbersome, this is designed to make the security around accounts stronger to prevent fraud. This rule will only be in place until the digital-only licenses are open for business.
Horse Betting in Illinois
Horse racing has had a long, storied history in the Chicago area, and that continues today. With tracks like Arlington Park and Hawthorne, gamblers have been able to bet on local horse races for decades. Also, the tracks and the off-track betting sites offer players the chance to bet on races happening all over the country. Pari-mutuel betting is alive and well in Chicago and figures to be that way for decades to come.
Online Horse Betting
When it comes to online horse racing, Illinois is one of the few states that is very open about letting its land-based facilities offer online betting. Each of the tracks offers their won mobile and online operations. Also, players in the state have the option of using one of the companies like Twinspires or TVG to make their bets online. It is difficult to say if the state will intervene to protect the local track revenue by blocking access to the outsiders but for now, they remain an option.
Casino Gambling in Illinois
A progressive state when it comes to all forms of gambling, Illinois also offers players the chance to play their favorite table games and slots. Initially, casinos were allowed to be on riverboats as part of legislation in 1990 (they had been around in the 1800s already, so that was the precedent used to push this law though). From there, the casino landscape expanded to on-land facilities, and in 2011, a new bill passed that mandated the building of 5 new land-based properties. In this bill, the racetracks in the state were also allowed to add casino games to their floors to help prop up the slowly deteriorating horse racing business. As part of the new legislation that passed in June 2019, two new full casinos were approved in the state, including one at the storied Hawthorne Racetrack.
Online Casinos in Illinois
Unfortunately for fans of online table games and slots, there was no addition of legal online casinos tacked onto the 2019 legislation. For the time being, this means that residents are forced to head offshore to get their fix. While we do not recommend this, there are definitely options available to players.
There have been many discussions in Illinois regarding the possibility of offering online casino games, but with sports betting taking up all the oxygen in the state since May 2018, those talks have faded to the background. It is likely that an amendment to the current legislation could be in the cards.
Lottery in Illinois
The Illinois Lottery is one of the oldest in the country, having been established all the way back in 1974. It remains a major source of funding for various education programs in the state and in 2017 generated over 700 Million in funds. Players in the state can play the Powerball and Mega Millions games, along with many Pick 3 and 5 draws open only to residents of Illinois. Also, Illinois is one of the few states that have made the leap into Internet Lottery sales. You can set up a subscription online to buy your draw tickets, which is great for those of you that are forgetful and may miss a draw for that reason.
Illinois Gambling FAQ
It is – soon. Legislation finally passed in June 2019 after a long debate cycle, so Illinois residents will be able to bet on their favorite sports teams from casinos, racetracks, and sports stadiums as well as at many lottery retailers. They will also be able to play from their phones, tablets, and laptops when licenses are awarded.
When will legal sportsbooks be live in Illinois?
With all the excitement of the passing of legislation in the rearview mirror, everyone in the state has their fingers crossed that licenses will be awarded soon. In December 2019 the first applications will be received from potential licensees, and after that we expect that the first licenses will be granted in early 2020. With there needing to be a retail location for sportsbooks in the state from the outset, you can expect to be gambling on sports legally in the state somewhere in the middle of the year.
What should I be looking for in an online sportsbook for residents of Illinois?
There will be a lot of companies competing for your sports betting dollars in the coming years, so it is essential that you find a site that offers what you are most interested in. This can vary by user, but for the most part you want to find a place that provides excellent customer service, great promotions, a multitude of payment options and allows you to bet on whatever sports you wish. We will be reviewing every site when they come online so you can use us as a resource when looking for a place to play.
How do I make deposits and withdrawals at an online sportsbook in Illinois?
While all the rules and regulations have yet to be defined, it is likely that the payment methods in Illinois will match those from around the states. These will include credit and debit cards, prepaid cards, digital payment companies like Paypal, and of course you will be able to load your account in cash if it has a land-based partnership and location. From a withdrawal perspective, you can probably add checks to the list, as well.