Illinois only joined the sports betting fray in 2020. Entering the market with somewhat complicated rules, things weren’t made easier for Illinois sports betting by the outbreak of a global pandemic.
Sports betting was therefore not off to a good start. But with the in-person registration requirement finally removed in March 2022, sports betting in Illinois is set to finally get going for real.
We are taking a look at how sports betting in Illinois has developed, where it is right now and where it might be headed.
Top IL Online Sportsbooks 2022
Best IL mobile sports betting apps
Since there are currently only seven sports betting apps available in IL, we might as well give you a brief overview of all of them. This should already give you an idea of which one might be suited best to your needs.
DraftKings is one of the best sportsbooks in the US and among the few that has been around for a decade now. They may have started as a DFS site, but this experience has given them a head start in the traditional sportsbook market as well. Their app is easy to use, features a betting carousel that makes the experience a tailored one to your preferences and you are able to close your ticket before the end of a game. They lack a little in ongoing promotions but are otherwise solid.
BetRivers manages Rivers Casino Des Plaines, who were the first to launch sports betting in Illinois in June 2020. The company itself is owned by Rush Street Gaming, who are at home in Chicago, making this as much of a home-grown sportsbook as is possible. New customers can look forward to a $250 deposit bonus and generous wagering requirements. Plus, their iRush Rewards program is great, but the app does need some work still as it is not the most user-friendly one.
FanDuel is another bookmaker that started out in Daily Fantasy Sports. If you want an easy-to-use and attractive betting app, this is the one to choose. We also appreciate the abundance of same-game parlays available at FanDuel. Merely their customer support needs improving, but otherwise this app is one of the best mobile betting apps around, offering new customers a $1,000 welcome bonus.
PointsBet is an Australian bookmaker, who has partnered with Hawthorne Race Course to offer sports betting in Illinois. They have a unique PointsBetting system, through which players can win or lose points based on how right or wrong their wager was. They offer regular promotions that are particularly generous, not just for new customers, who can claim a whopping $2,000 welcome bonus.
Caesars is an experienced US sportsbook that is less smooth in its presentation and sometimes feels a bit chunky. But the sportsbook comes with an extensive library of betting options and offers competitive odds. What’s more, they have more odds boosts available than any other mobile betting app we have seen, making them a great option to check when shopping around for the best odds. New customers will get a $1,100 bonus.
BarStool is partner of two Hollywood Casinos and the Argosy Casino Alton, making them one of the most widely available books in IL. They have a solid mobile betting app that is one of the later additions in the state. Still, be sure to check out the wide variety of sports and betting markets here or visit one of their retail locations.
The latest entrant to the Illinois sports betting market was BetMGM. The betting app has a vast menu of sports and bet types as well as some useful features such as Edit My Bet or Easy Parlay. The navigation is not quite as smooth as we would like, but the app is better rated than others in this list and it is thus far the only book that has no retail partner, operating online only.
History of betting and online sports betting in IL
The earliest form of sports betting in Illinois was pari-mutuel betting on horse races, which has been a part of IL culture since the late 19th century. Hawthorne Race Course initially opened in 1891 but had to close again in 1905 as horse racing was banned in Chicago. Then it became legal again in 1922 and the racecourse has been in use ever since.
Casino gambling was legalised and regulated in 1990, when the Riverboat Gambling Act was passed into law. A year later the first riverboat casino opened for business and now there are 10 legally operating riverboat casinos in Illinois.
After PASPA was overturned, Illinois law makers sought to legalise sports betting as well. It was Gov. Pritzker who made the first move to include sports betting revenue into his budget, which was aimed at pushing law makers to introduce an actual sports betting bill.
There was some back and forth, but ultimately, Rep. Bob Rita took main responsibility and eventually a bill was signed into law in June 2019. In the future, online and retail sports betting (at locations such as casino, racetracks, sports venues or even lottery locations) would be allowed, but lawmakers also wanted to give retail location an advantage, simultaneously punishing operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel, who they deemed to have operated illegally in the state with their DFS platforms. As a consequence, online-only platforms were not just limited to three licenses, but they also had to wait 18 months before they were allowed to enter the market in Illinois.
FanDuel and DraftKings still found their way into IL sports betting by partnering with retail locations in the state.
Further restrictions were imposed by mandating an in-person registration requirement for sportsbooks. Whilst new customers would be able to sign up via a mobile app, registration had to be completed at a retail location. Add to that the Coronavirus pandemic forcing shutdowns across the world, sports betting in IL got off to a slow start.
Whilst casinos were initially only closed for two months, Gov. Prisker still ended up introducing an exemption to the in-person requirement, which was put on hold until 2021. It was re-introduced once more, but eventually expired on March 5th, 2022. Since then, IL customers have been able to sign up and complete registration online without a further need to visit a retail location.
Future of sports betting in NJ
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) oversees all licensing and regulation of sports betting and gambling, online and offline in the state.
Due to some complications when sports betting was legalised in Illinois, which concerned mainly the interests of existing casinos and retail bookmakers, the rules and regulations are somewhat confusing and not exactly great for online sportsbooks or bettors.
Existing retail operators in Illinois received a distinct advantage once sports betting was passed into law. They could apply for a license right away at a cost of $10 million per license.
Online-only bookmakers were only allowed to apply for licenses after 18 months at a cost of $20 million for a license.
This provision expired in March 2022, which has now opened up the market more than was previously the case. Given that Illinois is one of the largest markets for sports betting in the US, there is still a lot of potential to grow and ease up on restrictions still in place. Indeed, with up to 23 master licenses allowed in IL, many more books could enter the market.
Betting on in-state college sports teams and games online is still prohibited in the state. Initially, it was prohibited entirely, but since 2021, punters are able to bet on in-state college teams at retail locations. It seems baffling that it is still not allowed to also do so online as the difference seems marginal at best.
Another rule that IL sportsbook has to follow is the mandate to purchase official league data, which is particularly important for live betting. Operators are concerned that this will create a monopoly situation and it would certainly be one of the rules whose removal many would welcome.
How to get started in IL with a sportsbook or mobile betting app
The number of sportsbooks available in IL is obviously more limited than in other states. This makes it less difficult to find the one that best suits your needs, but you should definitely do some research before signing up.
Whichever app you end up choosing, you usually have to go through the same few steps to sign up and get started on sports betting:
- Only install mobile betting apps that are licensed through the IGB
- Register or sign up for an account (make sure to use proper credentials, including name, address, age, and the last four digits of your SSN)
- Allow the app or site to confirm your location (usually done via a separate geo-location app)
- Make a deposit
- Claim the welcome bonus (if available)
- Start betting
And that’s about all there is to it.
What sports can you place wagers on in IL?
With plenty of professional franchises residing in Chicago, there is no shortage of home-grown teams to bet on in IL. Let’s take a look at some favourites.
The Chicago Bears are the NFL team most fans will root for in IL. They have held plenty of championships throughout the years, though only won the Super Bowl once in 1985. That said, they reached the playoffs as recently as 2020, making them a strong team to look out for.
Whilst the Chicago Bulls are certainly an iconic team, it has been a while since their heydays. Their most recent division title is from 2012 and almost all other titles and championships hail from the 1990s, when the team was at its strongest. The enthusiasm of their fans is not lacking, however, but you may not find them a safe bet.
Baseball fans will have to take their pick among the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox. The Cubs have been around since 1876, winning the world series in 1907 and 1908 before going on a 105-year losing streak. They made their comeback in 2016 with another world series title, however.
The White Sox are a little younger, having played since 1901. They also managed to win the world series three times, in 1906, 1917 and 2005.
Not only are the Chicago Blackhawks one of the Original Six teams in the NHL, they also won six Stanley Cups in their history, the latest in 2014/15. That’s a pretty good quota and fans continue to bet on another victory sooner rather than later.
The second pro team in basketball is the women’s team, the Chicago Sky. Having been established in 2006, they have played in several playoffs, reaching the final in 2014 and 2021. They brought home the title in 2021, giving fans confidence that they will continue strong in the future.
With strong college programs, it was almost a shame that Illinois punters were unable to bet on their teams. Granted, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Illinois Fighting Illini have not had their best showings in recent years, but there are also the Northwestern Wildcats, who have improved considerably lately and the Northern Illinois Huskies, who have won 11 conference titles.
The basketball teams are also worth checking out, even if you are currently only able to bet on them at retail locations in IL.
IL Sports Betting FAQ
No, but you must be located within IL borders when registering an account or when using the sportsbook app. You will be required to download a geo-location app to verify your location. And you must be 21 years or older to sign up to sportsbook.
Sports betting revenue is taxed at 15% in IL.
No. You can play casino games at retail locations such as the river boats, but online casino gambling is not currently permitted.
Yes, but only in person at retail locations.
Sort of. Daily Fantasy Sports don’t seem to have ever been truly legalised in IL, but since the IL Supreme Court deemed some DFS contests as games of skill, which are permitted in the state, DFS is not technically illegal. DraftKings and FanDuel operate without issues in IL now.