Illinois sports betting options consist of retail sportsbooks at casinos and licensed mobile apps. The first retail sportsbook opened at Rivers Casino Des Plaines in March 2020 and the first mobile betting app launched three months later.
In all, Illinois is home to many legal, regulated gambling options both online and in-person.
Online gaming options include sports wagering, horse racing betting sites and daily fantasy sports.
In the physical realm, gamblers will find riverboat casinos, racetracks, sportsbooks and the state lottery.
Illinois Betting Sites and Sportsbooks
Mobile sports betting is now legal and operational in Illinois. BetRivers Sportsbook launched the state’s first online betting app and will be followed by additional operators over time. Customers must be 21 or older to bet on sports in Illinois.
Other forms of online betting in Illinois include horse racing betting and daily fantasy sports. In both of those cases, numerous operators that are licensed in the USA are open to customers 18 or older across the state.
Horse racing, fantasy sports sites and the state lottery may offer their services in Illinois provided they have the appropriate licensing to do so. Each would-be gaming site must receive specific approval from the state gaming board before it may legally accept wagers from state residents.
Two online sports betting operators have reserved their places in the Illinois market so far. Just days after the IL sports betting law was approved, Australian firm PointsBet.com announced a partnership with Hawthorne Race Course to construct a retail sportsbook at the track, offer betting through multiple off-track betting locations and to launch a mobile app.
However, BetRivers was the first to cross the finish line in mid-2020 with online and mobile betting for Illinois customers.
DraftKings is also set to join the fray soon after reaching a deal with Casino Queen in East St. Louis for mobile sports betting. FanDuel is reportedly considering its options as well (to include potentially buying Fairmount Park Racetrack) but has not confirmed its plans yet.
Mobile Sports Betting in Illinois
Mobile sports betting is legal and operational in Illinois. BetRivers Sportsbook launched in June 2020 to commence legal online and mobile wagering in Illinois. Look for additional operators to follow suit over the near and medium term.
Online sportsbooks that are open or close to opening:
Casinos, racetracks and stadiums that hold sports betting licenses may launch mobile apps under their own brand names. Casinos and racetracks will be able to accept customers from across the state while stadiums will have a 5-block radius in which they may accept wagers in-person or through mobile apps.
There are two key provisions related to mobile betting in IL that will inconvenience some bettors, but both will be resolved with the passage of time.
First, customers are required to register in-person with a licensed sportsbook before betting online. This means you’ll need to visit a nearby casino or racetrack to sign up for an account and verify your identity. Once you get that out of the way, you’ll be able to bet at your convenience from a licensed mobile app.
Governor J.B Pritzker temporarily suspended the in-person registration requirement via executive order during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the closures of casinos but allowed the order to expire in July 2020. Now, Illinois bettors must visit a casino in-person to complete their mobile betting registrations.
Second, individual online-only operators are prohibited from entering the market for the first 18 months unless they partner with a local casino. If an online operator chooses to go that route, it is required by law to operate under the brand name of the land-based casino.
Online operators may also choose to wait 18 months and then apply for one of three mobile betting licenses. Operators that choose to go that route will be allowed to operate under their own brand names, but they’ll be playing catchup after sitting out for a year and a half.
The good news is both provisions are set to expire after 18 months. Eventually, you’ll be able to register online from anywhere in the state and also place wagers through sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings if they haven’t already partnered with a local casino or racetrack.
Casinos, racetracks, off-track betting facilities (OTBs) and seven of the state’s largest sports stadiums may launch on-premises sportsbooks under IL law.
The following list of Illinois sportsbooks will be updated as additional casinos, racetracks and stadiums launch their own betting venues.
3000 S River Road
Des Plaines, IL 60018
1 Piasa Street
Alton, IL 62002
200 South Front Street
East St. Louis, Illinois 62201
250 S. Grove Avenue
Elgin, IL 60120
A total of seven IL sportsbooks have received master sports wagering licenses to date – all of which were awarded during an IGB meeting on June 12th, 2020. BetRivers Sportsbook and Argosy Casino Sportsbook were able to launch prior to that date with temporary licensing permits but are now fully licensed.
The issuance of these licenses also began the 18-month countdown clock for the “penalty box” period during which online-only operators must wait before being given the go-ahead to commence online gaming.
The full list of casinos with master sports wagering licenses currently includes:
- Rivers Casino Des Plaines
- Argosy Casino Alton
- Grand Victoria Casino
- Hollywood Casino Aurora
- Hollywood Casino Joliet
- Par-A-Dice Casino
- Casino Queen
Three racetracks have also applied for sports betting licenses:
- Arlington Park
- Hawthorne Race Course
- Fairmount Park
Sportsbooks at Stadiums
One of the more unique aspects of the IL sports betting law is a provision allowing up to seven sports stadiums to apply for licenses to operate sportsbooks. Stadiums that acquire these licenses may take wagers in-person as well through mobile devices within a five-block radius.
Sports Betting Kiosks
The Illinois Lottery has also been authorized to enter the sports betting business to a limited degree. Under the new law, the IL Lottery may place up to 2,500 sports betting kiosks throughout the state over the first year of the law being in effect. After that, the lottery may place an additional 2,500 kiosks over the course of the following year to bring the total to 5,000 machines.
IL Lottery betting kiosks will not be permitted to offer full-fledged sports betting; they may only offer parlay-style wagers. The details of exactly how those wagers would work still need to be worked out, but the basic gist with parlays is players must pick the outcomes of at least two games in return for receiving better payout odds than wagering on just a single game.
Illinois Sports Betting Law
Illinois legalized in-person and mobile sports betting with a law passed in June 2019. After the House and Senate issued their stamps of approval, Governor J.B. Pritzker added his signature to turn the bill into the law of the land.
Under SB 690 (starting on page 227), Illinois may issue licenses to casinos, racetracks, off-track betting facilities (OTBs) and large sports stadiums to operate retail sportsbooks. Licensed casinos and racetracks may also offer statewide mobile betting while licensed stadiums may accept mobile wagers within a five-block radius.
Licensing fees for casinos and racetracks are priced based on 5% of each operator’s adjusted gross receipts but max out at $10 million. Expensive or not, most if not all of the state’s casinos are likely to apply for licenses. Pennsylvania established a similarly expensive licensing scheme and even though PA casinos initially balked at paying that much to offer what is essentially a low-revenue form of gaming, they ended up applying for licenses one by one.
Online operators such as FanDuel, DraftKings and PointsBet may either partner with a local land-based sportsbook operator or apply for one of the three online-only licenses that will be issued 18 months following the launch of IL sports betting.
The IL sports betting law does have its troublesome areas such as high licensing fees and requiring in-person registration for the first 18 months, but overall it can be considered a win for sports fans. It is always welcome news when a state finally gets around to regulating and taxing an activity that was already taking place underground via local bookies and offshore betting sites.
Key Illinois Sports Betting Rules
The Illinois Gaming Board and Department of Lottery have been tasked with drawing up regulations as needed to enforce the new sports betting law, but the law itself also includes a number of key rules that we know will be in place once the first sportsbooks and betting sites go live.
- In-person sportsbooks authorized? Yes
- Online and mobile sports betting authorized? Yes
- Where will betting take place? Casinos, racetracks and sports stadiums may apply for licenses to operate in-person sportsbooks and to offer online betting
- Sports betting kiosks: Illinois Lottery may operate up to 5,000 kiosks that will accept parlay-style wagers only
- Minimum age to bet on sports in IL: 21
- Restricted Events: No wagers allowed on Illinois college teams, minor league events and K-12 events
- Restricted Wagers: Pro sports teams may ask the Illinois Gaming Board to prohibit certain types of wagers if they are concerned such wagers will impact the integrity of their games
- Data Mandate: Licensed operators must purchase official data from the leagues for settling in-play wagers
- Tax rate: 15% on adjusted gross sports wagering receipts
- Additional local tax: An additional 2% tax will be collected from operators located in counties with a population in excess of 3 million. Money collected from this tax will go to support that county’s criminal justice system.
- Self-exclusion: The Illinois Gaming Board and Department of the Lottery shall set up a voluntary self-exclusion program for people who wish to restrict themselves from wagering
Past Efforts to Legalize Sports Betting in IL
Illinois’ latest move to legalize sports betting is not the state’s first attempt – lawmakers and industry stakeholders have been considering the issue for quite some time.
Two bills were introduced in 2018 seeking to legalize sports betting in the event the Supreme Court overturned the federal prohibition (which it did). HB 4214 was a simple placeholder bill while SB 2478 would have created the Sports Betting Consumer Protection Act.
SB 2478 lacked details regarding regulations, licensing conditions and tax rates and passed the forming of regulations on to a state agency. Which agency that would have been was left unsaid in the bill, but that too was to be decided at a later point. The aim in the short term was to simply end the state-level prohibition of sports betting and then figure out the rest later.
A reading of the full text of the bill reveals the authors also envisioned online sports betting being legalized. The bill referred to “electronic” sports betting no fewer than 29 times as a potential form of betting that would be regulated by the state agency eventually assigned to regulate the industry.
The support of local casinos helped improve the odds of sports betting coming to Illinois, but casinos were a bit slower to speak on the matter. However, Arlington Racecourse sounded open to the idea when it told the Daily Herald it would like a casino to go with sports betting:
“If we are treated equally with the casinos and we have slots and table games,” Arlington GM Tony Petrillo said, “and then we have sports betting, that’s a venture that would be very plausible for this property.”
The 2018 efforts to legalize IL sports betting failed to yield results in the short term, but new legislation enacted in 2019 built on those first attempts to turn that dream into a reality. Early disappointments have finally turned into action with lawmakers finally getting fully on board with legal sports betting.
Horse Racing Betting in Illinois
Illinois is home to an active horse racing industry complete with parimutuel wagering at racetracks, OTB locations and licensed betting sites. The Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975 (full text here) establishes the legal framework for horse racing and parimutuel wagering in the state.
Online Racing Betting
Advance deposit wagering (online racing betting) is legal in Illinois for residents 18 or older at licensed betting sites. The IL Racing Board regulates online betting, issues licenses to ADW providers and maintains an up-to-date list of active licensees here.
Horse Racetracks in Illinois
Illinois is home to three permanent racetracks that hold live race days most of the year along with three fairs that host live harness races each year.
|Arlington Park |
2200 West Euclid Ave
|Fairmount Park |
9301 Collinsville Rd
|Hawthorne Race Course |
3501 S Laramie
|Brown County Fair |
309 Fairground St
|Illinois State Fair |
801 Sangamon Ave
|DuQuoin State Fair |
655 Executive Dr
Off Track Betting Locations (OTBs)
Illinois also licenses off-track betting (OTB) at specific locations throughout the state. As the name suggests, OTB facilities allow you to place wagers on horse races at locations other than the actual racetrack. Each track may authorize a certain number of OTB locations for a total of 43 possible facilities.
Currently, two dozen OTB facilities are licensed by the IRB.
Illinois Racing Board
The Illinois Racing Board (IRB) oversees horse racing and parimutuel wagering in all its forms across the state. The Board was established in 1933 and is responsible for issuing licenses to racetracks and racing personnel, ensuring the integrity of parimutuel wagering, collecting taxes, distributing revenue and much more.
Illinois Fantasy Sports
The Illinois legislature has never gotten around to formally legalizing and regulating fantasy sports, but DFS operators have clear legal footing to offer their services to residents.
A 2020 Illinois Supreme Court decision ruled daily fantasy is a contest of skill and therefore not subject to state laws on gambling, which is heavily regulated. As a result, the legality of fantasy sports was affirmed in Illinois.
The 2020 decision court decision countered a 2015 Attorney General opinion that found DFS contests meet the state’s definition of gambling and are therefore illegal under state law. Moving forward, fantasy sports contests are treated as contests of skill in Illinois.
This was not the first court case to have a significant impact on fantasy sports in Illinois. In 2013, New York resident Chris Langone brought a lawsuit against FanDuel.com in Illinois court. He sought to claim more than $500,000 in earnings from FanDuel and one of its customers under an old Illinois law called the Illinois Loss Act.
The Loss Act is an old piece of anti-gambling legislation that makes gambling losses recoverable by the loser if the losses amount to more than $50. If six months pass and the victim doesn’t claim the losses, anyone may recover those losses in court. Here’s the applicable piece of the law:
(a) Any person who by gambling shall lose to any other person, any sum of money or thing of value, amounting to the sum of $50 or more and shall pay or deliver the same or any part thereof, may sue for and recover the money or other thing of value, so lost and paid or delivered, in a civil action against the winner thereof, with costs, in the circuit court. . . .
(b) If within 6 months, such person who under the terms of Subsection 28-8(a) is entitled to initiate action to recover his losses does not in fact pursue his remedy, any person may initiate a civil action against the winner. The court or the jury, as the case may be, shall determine the amount of the loss. After such determination, the court shall enter a judgment of triple the amount so determined.
The lawsuit was eventually thrown out due to Langone failing to meet the minimum threshold of recoverable money and because FanDuel itself cannot be considered a “winner of gambling” because it simply acts as a middleman between bettors.
Are fantasy sports legal in Illinois?
Yes. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that fantasy sports are contests of skill and not chance. Lawmakers could still pass legislation to regulate fantasy sports or even prohibit it outright, but as it stands right now, DFS is legal in Illinois.
Illinois Online Lottery
Illinois was the first state to take its lottery to the internet after a federal judge ruled that it would be legal for states to do so. The IL Online Lottery went live in 2012 and the website allows residents to create an account and purchase individual tickets for Powerball, Mega Millions and Lotto.
Any state resident 18 or older may register an account there and purchase tickets or sign up for subscriptions for automatic purchases. Winnings under $600 are credited directly to your lottery account and may then be withdrawn straight to your bank account. If you win more than $600, the state lottery claims department will contact you with instructions for claiming your money.
Here’s something else interesting: the Illinois lottery is largely responsible for states now having the authority to legalize online poker and gambling. In 2009, Illinois and New York asked the Department of Justice to clarify its stance on the Wire Act of 1961. Both states had plans to sell tickets online but were unsure if this plan would run afoul of federal law.
It took the Dept. of Justice two years to respond but it was worth every minute of the wait. Not only did the DOJ approve of online lotteries, but it ruled that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting. This decision is what paved the way for states like New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware to legalize online casino games and poker.
Online Poker and Casinos in Illinois
Illinois has been flirting with the idea of online gambling legalization for years now. One effort came in 2013 when a major rewrite of the state’s gaming laws included a bit about legalizing, regulating and taxing online poker and casino games. Legislators yanked the part about online gaming before the bill was passed the following month.
For a period after the 2013 bill failed, there was no word or indication that online gambling would come to Illinois any time soon aside from Senate President John Cullerton once calling internet gambling inevitable. If the people of Illinois are going to be gambling and playing poker online anyways, why shouldn’t the state get a cut? It would be better to regulate it, enact better safeguards for players and keep those tax dollars stateside. That was the basic argument anyways.
Cullerton’s attempt to add online gaming to the 2013 bill ultimately failed, but he says he’s not out yet. He’ll continue to push the idea and hopefully make something happen for the players of Illinois. He also said that internet gaming probably won’t come to Illinois until lawmakers finalize and enact legislation to allow the construction of new land-based casinos in the state.
In the end, he said, internet gaming represents an easy source of cash for governments in all states. Lawmakers have the power to create a new industry overnight and generate a new source of revenue without raising taxes. The people want the freedom to spend their money how they please and state lawmakers like the idea of additional revenue.
Online Gambling Bill Passes in the Illinois Senate
The next big break for online gambling in Illinois came about unexpectedly in May of 2017. With little warning, language legalizing online gambling and online poker was added to a daily fantasy sports bill at the behest of local riverboat casino interests.
According to local news reports, existing casinos in Illinois view daily fantasy sports as a competing business model and were originally opposed to legislation regulating fantasy sports. However, those casinos had also been interested in expanding to online gaming for quite some time. They were able to strike a deal with lawmakers and get the online gaming language added to the fantasy sports bill.
In addition to creating consumer protection regulations for daily fantasy sports, the modified bill seeks to legalize online gaming and issue licenses to operators. Existing casinos, horse racing tracks and ADW operators will be authorized to apply for licenses for an application fee of $250,000 and a licensing fee of $10 million. Operators will be permitted to offset the hefty licensing fee against future taxes collected on gaming revenue.
The bill was put to a vote in the Illinois Senate in May and passed by a vote of 42-10, but stalled in the house.
Is it legal to play at offshore casinos or poker sites?
Article 28 of the Illinois Criminal Code appears to prohibit the mere act of playing poker or wagering on games. The code doesn’t specifically mention the internet, but it could be interpreted to apply to betting on games anywhere with the following text:
(a) A person commits gambling when he or she:
(1) knowingly plays a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value, unless excepted in subsection (b) of this Section;
(2) knowingly makes a wager upon the result of any game, contest, or any political nomination, appointment or election;
However, Illinois has never once prosecuted a person for playing games online. There probably isn’t much legal risk associated with playing at offshore poker rooms or casinos.
Even so, we don’t advise our readers to play for real money at unlicensed poker sites. The legal risk may be small, but there is a significant financial risk associated with playing on sites that still accept Americans contrary to US gaming laws. The Department of Justice has shut down unlicensed gaming sites and seized funds on several occasions.
The safe option is to play at land-based casinos and stick with the forms of internet betting that are already legal in Illinois.