After a few years of legislative and regulatory ups and downs, Illinois saw the opening of the state’s first legal sportsbook in March 2020. Legal online sportsbooks in Illinois began a few months later when BetRivers Sportsbook went online, but an in-person registration requirement has complicated matters.
Governor J.B. Pritzker’s executive order in June 2020 suspending the requirement that patrons appear in person to open a betting account fast-tracked the market’s growth and potential, but has since been reinstated. Currently, new users must visit an online sportsbook’s in-person casino partner to get started. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of sports betting potential for Illinois and its 12 million residents.
Best Illinois online sportsbooks
IL sportsbook list: The breakdown
|Online Sportsbook Name||Sportsbook Venue||Retail Opening||Online Launch|
|BetRivers||Rivers Casino Sportsbook||3/9/2020||6/18/2020|
|DraftKings Sportsbook||DraftKings at Casino Queen, East St. Louis||8/5/2020||8/5/2020|
|PointsBet||Hawthorne Race Course||TBD||9/12/2020|
|Penn National||Sportsbook at Argosy Casino Alton||3/12/2020||TBD|
|William Hill||Grand Victoria||8/6/2020||TBD|
|Penn National / Barstool||Hollywood Casino Aurora||8/20/2020||TBD|
|Penn National / Barstool||Hollywood Casino Joliet||8/20/2020||TBD|
|BetAmerica||Arlington Park Racetrack||TBD||TBD|
|TBD||Fairmount Park Racetrack||TBD||TBD|
|Caesars Sportsbook||Harrah's Metropolis||TBD||TBD|
|TBD||Jumer's Casino Rock Island||TBD||TBD|
|FanDuel Sportsbook||Par-A-Dice Casino East Peoria||TBD||TBD|
Despite an unaccommodating regulatory and tax structure, many top sportsbook companies have flocked to Illinois, or are seeking entry. Six physical sportsbooks take bets now, and more are on the way.
Here there are in no particular order.
1. BetRivers Sportsbook – Rivers Casino Des Plaines
The first Illinois sportsbook to take a bet will likely keep its status as a leading online and retail sports betting destination in the Land of Lincoln. The BetRivers sportsbook launched Illinois sports betting in March 2020, featuring a LED high definition wall of TVs and stadium-style seating. It also offers more than two-dozen bar seats filled with video poker terminals.
BetRivers also launched the state’s first legal mobile sportsbook. Highlighted by its Rivers BetBuilder, Chicago-based gaming giant Rush Street’s online app allows eligible bettors a full array of traditional betting options such as money lines, point spreads, parlays and totals on most popular U.S. sports leagues.
The mobile app includes live game streams and betting options, daily promotions, rewards points and a bonus bank, all within an easy-to-navigate mobile app. Notably, the temporary in-person registration mandate removal has subsided, meaning bettors must still sign up in person at the suburban Chicago casino to place a mobile bet. Already online in five states with more on the way, BetRivers is poised to become a leader in its home state of Illinois.
2. DraftKings at Casino Queen in East St. Louis
It seemed one of the nation’s most high-profile sportsbooks wouldn’t enter Illinois until at least 2021, but a partnership with Casino Queen placed DraftKings Sportsbook among the first legal Illinois sports betting options.
DraftKings’ mobile and retail betting platforms debuted in August 2020. However, for the time being, mobile bettors will still need to register for an account in person at the Casino Queen property, which sits near the Mississippi River just across the Missouri border near St. Louis. The East St. Louis casino, rebranded as “DraftKings at Casino Queen,” now includes the eponymous sportsbook to go along with more than 1,000 slot machines as well as 34 table games within its 38,000 square-foot gaming floor.
DraftKings’ “No. 1 rated sportsbook app” comes to Illinois after handling billions in wagers in other states. Like its out-of-state setups, DraftKings Illinois has live in-game betting, game lines and thousands of other options for American professional and amateur sports leagues along with hundreds of foreign leagues. The DraftKings Stats Hub gives bettors an in-depth look at that day’s most important trends and spotlights prop betting options.
Illinois is DraftKings’ 10th U.S. sports betting market to go along with more than 40 states that feature its daily fantasy product. Already a household name for millions of U.S. sports fans, DraftKings’ early entrance to the Illinois market further positions it to be an industry leader.
3. Caesars Sportsbook – Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin
Caesars Sportsbook, owned by the casino giant, is a new and improved sportsbook offering that replaced William Hill, also owned by Caesars, in 2021. William Hill was in many states, but Caesars clearly has a more recognizable brand, so the company decided that it was better off using the Caesars brand for its flagship sportsbook product.
As of August 2021, after replacing William Hill, Caesars Sportsbook now has locations in over a dozen states plus Washington D.C. Caesars operates a brick-and-mortar sportsbook, located near the entrance of the Grand Victoria casino in the Chicago suburb of Elgin, is open seven days a week and features multiple TVs and a number of seating options. Caesars Sportsbook has proven to be among the best and most consistent in the country, with trained and knowledgeable ticket writers and sleek stadium-style lounges.
The Caesars Sportsbook mobile app gives bettors a range of betting options, and also features one of the nation’s more robust live-odds betting options. Available for Apple and Android devices, the company’s mobile app isn’t a tech or bells-and-whistles standout, but it does get the job done.
4. Penn National/Barstool Sportsbook – Argosy Casino Alton
The second Illinois retail sportsbook to open its doors, Penn National’s Argosy Casino Alton was the first to open in the greater St. Louis metro area. One of three Penn National properties in the state, it remains to be seen when it will launch its first online sportsbook – and if will feature one of the more notorious names in sports.
The Barstool Sports betting app is set to launch in Pennsylvania in 2020 with an Illinois version coming not long after. It remains to be seen how Penn National will shape its first Barstool-branded apps, and how much it will incorporate elements of its outlandish and sometimes controversial media elements, but with the backing of a venerable gaming company, it should match its betting rivals.
Penn National’s 2020 acquisition of the growing Barstool media conglomerate allows the company, not much of a household name despite one of the largest portfolios of gaming properties in the country, to stand out in the increasingly crowded sports betting marketplace in Illinois and a growing number of states. Expect bonuses and other promotions through Barstool and its media personalities.
In the meantime, the St. Louis-area Alton casino gives another major metropolitan area a chance to place a legal bet in-person. Argosy Casino’s sportsbook features roughly three-dozen TVs, 14 self-service wagering kiosks and five teller windows. From there, bettors can wager on dozens and leagues and thousands of games.
5. PointsBet Sportsbook – Hawthorne Race Course (near downtown Chicago)
One of the newest and most innovative sports betting companies in the world will soon launch its sportsbook in partnership with a Chicago landmark, creating the potential for another major player in Illinois gambling.
PointsBet, an Australian-based gaming company that entered the U.S. in New Jersey in 2019, will open retail and online sportsbooks as part of the venerable Hawthorne Race Course, located less than 10 miles from Downtown Chicago. The novel approach to betting combined with one of the Chicagoland area’s most convenient gaming options has Illinois betters excited for another new sportsbook that could take its first bet before the end of 2020.
Along with the full array of traditional pre-game bets such as point spreads and totals, PointsBet allows “points betting,” which pays winners more for big wins – but also punishes big whiffs. For example, if betting a team to cover as a 3-point favorite but that team wins by 10 (a margin of seven), the payout will be even larger than a fixed-odds bet (though the opposite is true; should that team lose by 10 in this scenario, the player must remit more money).
More on PointBet and Hawthorne:
The novel betting approach and the app’s unique design has made PointsBet’s online sportsbook a favorite in New Jersey, Indiana and Iowa, and should find similar support in pending markets including Colorado, Illinois and several others.
Meanwhile, PointsBets’ brick-and-mortar sportsbook has a key advantage over most of the two-dozen or so other possible retail locations. The Hawthorne Race Course is more convenient to downtown Chicago than the suburban casinos. That, along with its decades of horse racing experience, creates a special overarching betting experience that could give the new sportsbook an early leg up on the competition.
Hawthorne and PointsBet have promised to create a “world-class, multifaceted sports entertainment venue” centrally located on track property. Combined with Hawthorn’s access to off-track betting establishment statewide, PointsBet is in a good position in Illinois’ retail and online sports betting markets.
6-7. Hollywood Casino Aurora & Hollywood Casino Joliet (Penn National)
Both of the Penn National-owned Hollywood properties opened on Aug. 20, 2020, with NBA and NHL playoffs (as delayed by COVID-19) in full swing. It remains to be seen what will be the online arms for both properties, as the eventual Barstool Sportsbook may launch through Argosy, or one of these. The “skin” may be up for sale.
Regarding the in-person, physical sportsbook, Penn National has partnered with the U.K.-based Kambi Sports for the software and risk-management tools.
Illinois sports betting law: How’s it work in IL, what does it allow?
Illinois has some of the more robust gaming options of any state, and its elected officials were among the nation’s first to consider legal sports betting after the Supreme Court struck down the federal wagering ban in May 2018. Still, It would take many negotiations, detours and compromises before Illinois took its first bet.
After legislative efforts stalled in the 2018 legislative session, first-term Gov. J.B Pritzker, as well as veteran lawmakers Bob Rita and later Mike Zalewski, helped push through a massive capital bill in the waning moments of the 2019 session — SB 690 — enacting a convoluted solution that satisfied some but left most stakeholders wanting more.
The controversial in-person registration requirement marks the biggest downside to the bill, which otherwise supports a fairly competitive online and retail sports betting market. Since all bettors must register in person at a brick-and-mortar gaming facility before placing a mobile bet – a tall order since most such facilities are outside the state’s urban areas – the legal market’s potential was handicapped before the first bet was placed.
And even if a customer signs up in person at one location, he or she must still travel to each individual facility to place a bet through that property’s online brand. For example, a Chicago-area resident may not have a difficult time signing up for BetRivers online sportsbook account at the Des Plaines casino, but it’s far more logistically challenging to sign up for the DraftKings Sportsbook at its casino 300 miles away in East St. Louis.
Other rules, restrictions
Meanwhile, wagers on in-state college programs are prohibited, meaning would-be legal bettors in Illinois will have to turn back to unregulated means or out of state to place a bet on games featuring the University of Illinois or Northwestern University.
Illinois was also one of the first states to mandate books use “official league data” for in-play betting. This means operators must purchase data from the leagues themselves, cutting away profits in what is already a small-margin industry.
And while the bill creates the potential for as many as 23 online sportsbook “skins,” one of the nation’s higher tax rates (15% of gross gaming revenue compared to the 10% or less charged in most other states, but not all), as well as huge initial licensing fees of up to $20 million, will dissuade would-be entrants, especially smaller companies with less capital.
However, with its large, sports-crazed population and a major metropolitan area to draw bettors from, Illinois is expected to challenge New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Nevada for the nation’s largest markets. However, this won’t happen for the duration of the in-person registration mandate.
Fortunately, that clause sunsets in the second half of 2021, barring another order suspending it, but until then, Illinois’ sports betting potential depends on market participation from top sportsbook operators as well as prudent regulatory measures from the Illinois Gaming Board, which on top of the original sports betting law passes additional regulations and approves all sports betting licenses.
How are Illinois sports teams involved in sports betting?
Home to the NFL’s Chicago Bears, MLB’s Cubs and White Sox, the NHL’s Blackhawks and the NBA’s Bulls, Illinois hosts many of the nation’s best known and beloved professional sports teams. Soon, those teams may also open some of the nation’s first in-stadium sportsbooks.
The 2019 Illinois sports betting bill permits the aforementioned teams, as well as MLS’ Chicago Fire and two professional motorsports facilities, to open sportsbooks in their home venues. As of August 2020, none of those teams had done so, but Illinois could be the just the second jurisdiction with in-stadium sportsbooks, following Washington D.C.
Illinois’ pro teams may also partner with the nation’s leading sportsbook operators. All of the professional U.S. sports leagues now have some sort of league betting deal, and a rapidly growing number of individual teams such as the NFL’s Denver Broncos and the NBA’s Indiana Pacers have struck agreements of their own. As Illinois’ sports betting market continues to grow, in-state teams will likely follow suit.
This means that a century after it hosted the “Black Sox” scandal, one of the most notorious gambling schemes in American history, the White Sox, as well as the state’s other major pro teams, could soon take bets at their home venues.
As more casinos and horse tracks open sportsbooks, and the in-person registration mandate expires, Illinois betting interest will only grow. Once in-stadium sportsbooks open, Illinois, and the Chicagoland area in particular, should become an epicenter of American sports betting interest.
In the meantime
Illinoisans are flocking to neighboring Indiana to place bets on their home teams while the in-state market slowly comes online.
The Bears, Cubs, Bulls and Blackhawks remain perennially among the most bet-upon teams in their respective sports, and a new young core of White Sox players has reignited interest in the South Siders as well.
What is the ‘penalty box’ in IL and branding rules/controversy?
As a compromise during the tense 2019 sports betting negotiations, lawmakers created the so-called “penalty box” for online operators. The state’s brick-and-mortar casinos as well as its horse tracks could all partner with sportsbook operators for retail as well as online sportsbooks, which is known as “tethering,” but applicants for the three “untethered” online operator licenses must to sit in the “penalty box” for 18 months after the first Master Sports Betting License was issued.
The IGB award the first licenses on June 11, 2020, meaning it wouldn’t be until late in 2021 that untethered applicants could take their first bet, at the earliest.
On the surface, this was designed to penalize DraftKings and FanDuel, the high-profile daily fantasy operators that have been involved in a multi-year dispute with Illinois officials about the legality of their DFS operations. As major players in U.S. online gambling, it made sense that these two companies would seek the untethered licensees to enter Illinois.
More subtly, the provision was a gift to Illinois-based Rush Street Gaming, which wanted the a head start on legal sports betting in its home state. Rush Street’s BetRivers sportsbook did accept the first legal online and retail sports bets in Illinois, but their efforts to keep out two of its biggest competitors were not bulletproof.
DraftKings worked around the penalty box in a deal with the Casino Queen riverboat casino. Now “DraftKings at Casino Queen,” the DFS leader opened its first retail and online sportsbook just a few months after BetRivers. FanDuel is also set to enter the market also in 2020 through the Fairmount Race Track near East St. Louis, or perhaps through Boyd Gaming’s Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria.
All Illinois sportsbook operators are subject to the in-person registration requirement, a nod to the brick-and-mortar casinos such as Rush Street’s Rivers Casino, which sought the mandate as a foot-traffic generator for registrants sticking around to gamble at the property, and also a strategic benefit based on geography.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker temporarily lifted the order during the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020 because casinos were closed, thereby preventing any new sign-ups. The order was later reinstated in April 2021.
Opening of the box?
In-person registration looks like it will remain mandatory until late 2021 when a preexisting clause in the original sports betting bill lifts the requirement. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, this placed a logistical handicap on Illinois sports bettors. The registration trip to one of the eligible gaming facilities is enough to dissuade many would-be legal bettors, forcing them back to unregulated offshore sites or local bookies.
With the pandemic expected to affect casino operations – and the population at large – until at least 2021, the mandate could further deter applicants unwilling or unable to venture to a brick-and-mortar casino. Meanwhile, secondary outbreaks have already altered casino hours and offerings, and additional COVID-19 spread could spark further social distancing restrictions and possible closures.
State and national gaming officials have pushed Pritzker and the IGB to lift the in-person requirement permanently – or at least during the pandemic – but it appears it will remain in place until it’s sunset under the original law.
Illinois penalty box and registration mandates have, understandably, drawn criticism even before the pandemic. These policies may somewhat boost Rush Street, whose BetRivers Casino near O’Hare International Airport is one of the closest gaming venues to downtown Chicago, but will likely hinder all other sports betting options and, by extension, legal sports betting’s potential overall.
Deposits and Withdrawals at IL sportsbooks
Legal online sportsbooks in Illinois allow safe, secure banking transactions. Eligible bettors age 21 and up with a valid social security number can register from anywhere within state lines (though they will need to complete the sign-up process in person at the physical sportsbook location, discussed in other parts of this article).
Once finalized, players have a variety of funding options that will protect users and assure quick and accurate transactions. All IGB-approved sportsbooks have multiple security measures in place, making sure users’ data is safe and protected.
Once an account is funded, bettors can wager from anywhere within Illinois state lines. They can’t place bets outside the state, but they can withdraw funds.
- Debit cards: For many bettors, this is the simplest option. Most top Illinois sportsbooks accept Visa, MasterCard and Discover. During sign up, simply fill out your card information as directed and deposit funds into your preferred account.
- ACH: Users can also use their bank accounts to deposit funds. Just like debit cards, online banking transfers are quick, safe and easy.
- Online Banking: Through the sportsbook, you will be directed to log into your bank through your existing online banking credentials, at which you point you can make a desired transfer.
- PayPal: The most popular digital wallet option in the U.S., many bettors also find PayPal is the most convenient way to fund an account.
- PayNearMe: Like PayPal, the growing payment service provider is the preferred option for many bettors, while allowing them to integrate the app with a variety of eWallet options to fund an account.
- Prepaid Cards: Another easy way to fund sports betting, these cards allow users to set aside the amount of money they want to wager before actually depositing funds.
- Cash at casino only: You should also have the option to load up your online account by depositing cash at the casino partnered with the online sportsbook, such as PointsBet through Hawthorne. And, when in Rome, there may be no better way to place a bet than cold, hard cash, which will get you a physical paper ticket, too.
Frequently Asked Questions
The legal age to place a sports bet is 21. Any restrictions apply mostly to athletes, coaches, team owners and the like, barring them from betting on their own teams, and in some cases more. Though there are no other restrictions written into law on who can bet, those problem gamblers who place themselves on a self-exclusion list will be banned from betting.
No, only at licensed retail casinos or via online/mobile apps.
All sports bets need to occur within the Illinois boundaries and will be managed by geo-targeting technology. Patrons will be able to bet in person at retail sports betting locations and by using kiosks or mobile device.
Illinois sportsbooks will offer the standard bet types, like straight bets, totals, moneylines, futures, parlays, player and game props, teasers, and round robins. However, fans cannot place any bets on Illinois collegiate teams.
No, eligible visitors age 21 and up with a valid social security number can place bets as well.
Illinois sports betting apps are only accessible within state lines. A bettor must be physically within the state limits to place a wager.
No, bettors cannot place bets on sports for in-state programs such as the University of Illinois or Northwestern University
Yes, all sports bets are subject to applicable state and federal taxes
No, unregulated offshore sites remain illegal.
Since its contemporary riverboat casinos set sail in the 1990’s, Illinois has been on the forefront of the United States’ rapid gaming expansion of the last 30 years. Already with one of the nation’s highest concentrations of casinos and video gaming terminals, Illinois was one of the earlier adopters of legal sports betting.
But seizing those new sports betting opportunities have not come easily.
The complex 2019 sports betting bill, which sought to appease the state’s legion of competing interests, has stifled the market’s potential. The in-person registration requirement has only exacerbated the bill’s downsides during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, the customer base in the nation’s third-largest metro area and sixth-most populated state means Illinois will be a priority for U.S. gaming operators for the foreseeable future. The bill will provide enough online licenses to attract most top operators, but the casino establishment and exorbitant mobile-only license fee will likely keep out innovators, certainly less well-financed sportsbooks.
At least a dozen leading sports betting companies announced plans to enter Illinois after the bill was signed and perhaps nearly twice that many will be able to bets in the coming years. Because of its population and sporting history, Illinois should be one of the largest U.S. markets in gross handle.
Further regulatory hindrances – as well as the in-person registration requirement – will hamstring its potential, but there are too many macro-level positives in Illinois to keep it from becoming a focal point of the U.S. sports betting expansion boom.