Governor J.B. Pritzker signed off on legalized sports betting at the end of June, but will Illinois residents be able to legally bet on the upcoming NFL season?
Bordering states Indiana and Iowa beat Illinois to the punch, legalizing sports betting this past May. According to officials, Indiana anticipates a September 1 state date while Iowa expects to have its sports betting model up and running in time for college football.
Under the Illinois sports betting law, you will not be able to bet on games featuring in-state college teams. The rest of the country’s college games are up for grabs – but potentially not during the 2019 season.
According to one of the representatives responsible for getting the sports betting bill passed, the first domino that needs to fall is the Illinois Gaming Board.
“It’ll depend largely on [Governor Pritzker’s] new Gaming Board. How quickly they can get operational on this topic and decide how fast they issue licenses,” said Rep. Mike Zalewski.
As soon as licenses are issued, business can begin. But none of that can happen until the Gaming Board has been settled.
Currently, there are two openings on the Gaming Board that need to be filled: a fifth member and a new executive director.
However, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that Senator Terry Link believes “plans are afoot to sweep out members of the Gaming Board.” This would be part of a plan for a “pro-gaming” push at the new Gaming Board.
“You’re going to see changes rapidly,” said Senator Link.
This kind of talk should be music to the ears of anyone rooting for a swift deployment of Illinois sports betting.
The current board takes a more thorough and, to some, painstakingly slow approach when it comes to fulfilling their regulatory obligations. According to the Tribune, Senator Link and other pro-gambling lawmakers have already attempted to get rid of Gaming Board officials in the past. It looks like they may finally get their way.
But, until the Gaming Board is settled, sports betting in Illinois will remain in a holding pattern.
A new executive director is expected to be named this month, and once this happens, the dominoes should start to fall. The Gaming Board last met on June 13, their first since the sports betting bill passed. The next board meeting is scheduled for August 1, at which point new details should emerge.
Officials believe sports betting will officially arrive in Illinois in time for the Super Bowl. If so, that would be discouraging but believable given the past precedent set by Illinois politics.
While Iowa and Indiana have fewer moving pieces when it comes to their political spectrum, they are setting the bar for Illinois.
If Illinois were to move as quickly as its neighbors, being able to walk into an Illinois sportsbook could become a reality sometime in the middle of the Fall. Though to be fair, that’s much closer to a pipedream than a reality.
At this point, the best Illinois residents should hope for is being able to legally bet on Thanksgiving Day football. However, the smart money is on sportsbooks opening in time for the Super Bowl.
So far, only one company has officially paired up with an Illinois entity to run its sportsbook operations.
PointsBet, an Australian based company, struck a deal with Hawthorne Race Course to operate multiple retail sportsbooks, online betting and a mobile betting app. More such arrangements should be announced in upcoming months as eligible companies prepare to acquire sports betting licenses.
In additional to racetracks, sports venues with a capacity of over 17,000 will be allowed to operate sportsbooks. Wrigley Field has already begun to look into a location for a sportsbook, and the other major teams will likely follow suit.
Sports Venues Eligible for Sportsbooks in Illinois
- Soldier Field
- United Center
- Wrigley Field
- Guaranteed Rate Field
- Chicagoland Speedway
- World Wide Technology Raceway
- SeatGeek Stadium
What About DraftKings and FanDuel in Illinois?
The future of online-first operators DraftKings and FanDuel remains uncertain at this point. Brick-and-mortar venues will be able to launch mobile betting as soon as all the proper regulations are in place, but DraftKings and FanDuel will have to make a tough choice soon.
They can either partner with a land-based casino to operate under the casino’s name or wait 18 months and apply for one of the three mobile-only licenses to operate under their own brand names.
The official reason for the provision is that it is a punishment for both fantasy sites continuing to hold DFS contests even after the IL Attorney General issued an opinion declaring such contests to be illegal gambling, but it also conveniently gives local operators a big head start in the lucrative new industry.