The Prairie State has a long history with the concept of sports betting, which is why it is a surprise to outsiders why it has taken so long to legalize the practice of Illinois sports betting. With new casinos cropping up across the big cities like Chicago and a determined effort to reclaim interest from neighboring states, there is a lot of interest in what the shape of Illinois sports betting might look like in the future.
Throw in the expectations and fervent support surrounding the many sports teams of the Land of Lincoln, and we should see some great things from this state as the sports betting market continues to develop.
Legal Online Illinois Sports Betting
After four years of almost a blanket ban, sports betting was only confirmed as legal in June 2019 in Illinois. However, Illinois has a long history of underground gambling that goes back to over a century, and many professional sports teams get the wheels turning.
Fantasy sports betting, which would have otherwise satiated this desire to bet on the professional teams coming out of Chicago, was unfortunately also considered under the term of sports betting and therefore illegal.
There is a lot to the history of Illinois sports betting, which is excellent news for Illinois gamblers. We’re breaking down what has changed and how you can bet on your favorite teams.
Best Illinois Sports Betting Sites
We have listed the best online sportsbook websites for a sports bettor in Illinois.
BetMGM Illinois Sportsbook
BetMGM Illinois was able to gain access to the Illinois market by acquiring one of three licenses exclusively for online sports betting. It went live on March 5, 2022, the same day that the requirement for in-person registration was no longer in effect.
Following the laws governing sports betting in Illinois, standalone mobile operators must wait 18 months before beginning operations. This waiting period begins on the date that the first retail sports betting licenses are granted. This so-called “penalty box” was no longer valid after March 2022, and BetMGM entered the market immediately afterward.
BetMGM has formed a strategic alliance with the Par-A-Dice Hotel & Casino, formerly affiliated with FanDuel. However, FanDuel changed its name to FanDuel Sportsbook & Horse Racing after transferring its license to the formerly known Fairmount Park location.
BetRivers Illinois Sportsbook
BetRivers Illinois Sportsbook was the first legal betting application in the state of Illinois, and it was launched in June 2020 by Chicago’s Rush Street Interactive. The retail sportsbook at Rivers Casino Des Plaines is managed by BetRivers, which also provides mobile betting for the entire state of Illinois on iOS and Android devices.
BetRivers operates in several states and is regarded as a high-quality business by industry professionals. BetRivers is a viable option for serious and casual bettors due to its extensive wagering options, strong promotional schedule, and top-notch loyalty program. Although this is somewhat offset by occasionally suspect betting lines and house specials, BetRivers is still a good option overall.
PointsBet Illinois Sportsbook
In September of 2020, PointsBet introduced mobile betting to residents of the state of Illinois. PointsBet is one of the most innovative betting apps available in Illinois because, in addition to traditional wagers, it also offers the “PointsBetting” form of wagering, in which players win more money if they are more accurate.
PointsBet is one of the best sportsbooks for placing in-play wagers because the software is lightning quick, and the juice on live bets is typically on the lower end of the spectrum. In addition, it has just recently launched a loyalty program consisting of two parts. The top five percent of PointsBet customers are invited to join the exclusive Diamond Club, while members of the Platinum Club are determined by points earned.
FanDuel Illinois Sportsbook
Near the end of August 2020, FanDuel Sportsbook IL went live as the third mobile betting operator in Illinois, working in conjunction with Par-A-Dice Casino. After that, it changed its license to the Fairmount Park Racetrack, renamed the FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing track, and poured millions of dollars into efforts to revitalize the area around the track. FanDuel maintains its presence in retail sports betting by running a branded sportsbook at Par-A-Dice.
The betting interface at FanDuel Sportsbook is known for being particularly slick, and the book’s pre-game money lines and betting markets are consistently accurate. It was the first book to use the Same Game Parlay format, which led to virtually every other book adopting a similar strategy. FanDuel also offers some of the best odds boosts available in the industry (and occasionally some of the worst).
DraftKings Illinois Sportsbook
In August of 2020, DraftKings Sportsbook became the second online betting operator in the state of Illinois when it launched mobile betting for customers in that state. DraftKings has a partnership with DraftKings at Casino Queen in the state of Illinois (formerly Casino Queen East St. Louis).
Even though a significant portion of DraftKings Illinois’s success can be attributed to the company’s name recognition, there is more to the story. DraftKings Illinois is the market share leader in the state. DK provides its customers with a comprehensive selection of pre-game and in-play betting markets and offers competitive pricing. In addition to its stellar odds boost, this app is famous for its wide variety of innovative promotional offerings. The cherry on top is the recently launched loyalty program known as Dynasty Rewards, which, despite being only available online, offers benefits that are on par with most retail loyalty programs.
Barstool Sportsbook Illinois
The month of March 2021 saw the arrival of Barstool Sportsbook as the sixth licensed operator in the state of Illinois. Customers can download the Barstool Sportsbook app to view the most recent lines, view the promotions currently being offered, bet on games being played, and view the statistics and trends for upcoming games.
It should come as no surprise that Barstool is well-known for the action-oriented promotions and innovations it has introduced. For example, the Parlay+ betting option expands on the traditional same-game parlays by enabling gamblers to combine multiple bets from Parlay+ eligible games with hundreds of bets from other games. This opens up a much more comprehensive range of betting opportunities.
Caesars Illinois Sportsbook
William Hill was the original brand name used when Caesars Sportsbook opened its doors in Illinois. After some time, Caesars Entertainment purchased William Hill and started the drawn-out process of rebranding the company. Caesars Sportsbook now supports mobile betting across the state of Nevada for customers using iOS and Android devices.
The new Caesars Sportsbook app features a comprehensive betting menu, an active in-play betting calendar, and frequent promotions based on specific geographic locations. In addition, it has dozens of odds boosts, betting limits of up to one hundred dollars, and connections to Caesars Rewards, arguably the best retail casino loyalty program in the world.
How To Pick A Illinois Sports Betting Site
Illinois has a long history with sports betting; however, until as recently as 2021, that was kept to the racetracks and the underground betting venues. With the introduction of the Sports Wagering Act, many sportsbooks for Illinois sports bettors have emerged. Illinois has a wide variety of sports fans and a lot of Chicago teams available to keep them happy, so there is a hungry market available and waiting for any Illinois sports betting sites.
If you are purely a racing fan, that is a simple request to fill. Simply venture to one of Illinois’ racetrack casinos for race-side betting and dining, as well as casino classics like blackjack, poker, and slot machines. The three biggest racinos are the Harlem Race Track, the Hawthorne Race Course, and the Washington Park Race Track.
As for other sports, since the introduction of legal sports betting in March 2022, you can sign up for an Illinois sports betting site quickly and simply through your phone from anywhere in the state. There are currently seven online sportsbooks in the Prairie State, although as the market expands, you can imagine more will be added to the roster.
The currently seven sportsbooks include the DraftKings Illinois, Caesars sportsbook, BetMGM, PointsBet, BetRivers, and Fanduel. Others are also waiting to launch in the Illinois sports betting market, including Bally Bet, Circa Sports, TheScore Bet, Unibet, and Wynne. If you see any more added to that list in the future, make sure that it is licensed and regulated by the Illinois Gaming Board, the authority on gambling in Illinois.
It makes sense to include the welcome bonuses and other promotions on the sportsbook’s site when considering which Illinois sports betting site to go with. There are a lot of competitive welcome bonuses available to take advantage of too.
The registration process is simple enough for any betting app. You will be asked for basic details like your name, date of birth, and address. You might need to prove these with documents down the line, but once you’re past that point, you can create an account with an email address and password. From there, you can add your bank details and make your deposit, and you’re ready to start playing.
History / Timeline Of Sports Betting in Illinois
Illinois has a long and storied history with sports betting. For one thing, the Land of Lincoln has always loved its horseracing, as evidenced by the various racetracks, the oldest of which was built in 1854. To bet on the horses wasn’t considered sports betting, so if it wasn’t a horse, it wasn’t legal. Today, horseracing is still very popular since many racetracks are still around and still filled with venues.
There was a long history of underground sports betting venues for over a century before sports betting was made legal in Illinois on March 9, 2020. Sports betting fans had to wait patiently for 18 months after Governor JB Pritzker signed the Sports Wagering Act into law in June 2019, which held an 18-month “penalty box” provision, which was an apt name given the subject of the bill. In the meantime, sports betting venues could apply for retail sports betting licenses and prepare for the first legal sports bet to be made in Illinois.
This happened ahead of March Madness when the Rivers Casino accepted their first bet. Covid then briefly caused all the sports venues and casinos to close, but come the summer, sports leagues were starting up again, and online sportsbooks started launching across the state. By December of 2020, Illinois had accumulated over $491.7 million in bets.
In 2021, Illinois sports betting saw a stall as Gov. Pritzker then brought back in-person registration for sportsbooks in April, which continued to the end of the year and slowed the online market. By that point, Illinois had recorded over $7 billion in sports betting, the third-highest in the US. Only Barstool launched a new online sportsbook.
This brought us to March this year, when online sports betting registration was opened again. Since then, BetMGM Sportbooks has gone live, making for a promising start to the end of the year.
However, there are exceptions to this acceptance of sports betting. You are not permitted to bet on any minor league sporting event, any sport involving an Illinois collegiate team, a K-12 sports event, or a non-sports event that is authorized by the IGB.
Illinois Sports Teams
Due to the fortunate placement of Chicago in Illinois, there are many professional Il sports teams and minor professional teams within Illinois. As an Illinois resident, you are spoilt for choices, and the state is full of sports fans.
In baseball, the professionals are made up of the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. Still, there is also a long list of minor professional baseball teams, including the Kane County Cougars, the Peoria Chiefs, and the Gateway Grizzlies.
Chicago’s basketball teams include the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Sky, and their minor professional teams include the Windy City Bulls, Chicago Steam, and Kankakee County Soldiers.
The NFL has the Chicago Bears playing for them, and the minor league has this Quad City Steamwheelers, which has won eight NFL championships and a Super Bowl championship in 1985.
The NHL has the Chicago Blackhawks, six Stanley Cups, and five more minor league hockey teams, including the Peoria Rivermen and Quad City Storm. There are two soccer teams in Chicago: the Chicago Fire FC and the Chicago Red Stars.
You’ll notice a few of these minor teams aren’t tied to Chicago, like the Peoria Rivermen. There are a lot of thriving cities in Illinois that appreciate their sports, including Peoria and Rockford.
There are also the St Louis teams to consider. Despite being in Missouri technically, St Louis shares a border with Illinois and has a few professional teams of their own, making for many fans coming and going across state borders. St Louis has the St Louis Blues National Hockey League team and the St Louis Cardinals in Major League Baseball, as well as a range of minor league teams on show covering soccer, baseball, football, hockey, and basketball.
Illinois also borders Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana, all major sports fans. Iowa has no major league teams and is often seen supporting its neighbors. On the other hand, Wisconsin and Indiana have many professional teams, making for some friendly rivalry and even some overlap in support. Those interested in Illinois sports betting will be able to find competitive odds for teams based in neighboring states and across the US.
Wisconsin’s teams include the NFL Green Bay Packers, the AHL Milwaukee Admirals, the MLB Milwaukee Brewers, and the Milwaukee Wave soccer team. At the same time, Indiana offers the Indianapolis Colts for the NFL, the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, and the NBA’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants, among others.
Retail Sports Betting in Illinois
Illinois is home to three massive retail casinos: The Rivera Casino Des Plaines in Chicago, the Hollywood Casino Joliet, and Jumer’s Casino and Hotel.
The biggest of these, the Rivers Casino Des Plaines, is 147,000 square feet and has 48 table games, including 10 poker tables. It offers a complete casino of games, including 1,400 slot machines, an event center featuring music and comedy acts. This extensive sportsbook grants you access to the VIP suite, and even covers college league sports. A bet builder is available when you download the app to play and bet with a welcome bonus, something likely to interest those considering what Illinois sports betting offers.
The Hollywood Casino Joliet also offers a casino full of table games and slots and a sportsbook to indulge in some Illinois sports betting. You can place bets on football, soccer, basketball, hockey, baseball, golf, rugby, tennis, auto racing, boxing and MMA, cricket, darts, and lacrosse. There are professional and collegiate betting options available.
The Jumer’s Casino and Hotel has been absorbed by the Bally’s Group and therefore is renamed Bally’s Quad Cities. It still offers almost 900 slot machines, 16 table games, and 6 poker tables. There is also a long lineup of music gigs at the venue, but there is no mention of sports betting on the website.
Beyond these three land-based casinos, there are another eight sportsbooks available. There are even more sportsbooks in the works in Chicago. The current ones, beyond the two mentioned above, are made up of Grand Victoria Casino, Elgin (Caesars), Hollywood Casino, Aurora (Barstool), , East Peoria (FanDuel), Casino Queen, East St. Louis (DraftKings), Stickney (PointsBet), Par-A-Dice Casino FanDuel Sportsbook & Horse Racing, Collinsville, Hawthorne Race Course, and the Argosy Casino, Alton (Unibet), making for a thriving market with plenty of people willing to gamble.
Most of these are in Chicago, with five outliers dotted across the state. If you aren’t willing to travel to Chicago specifically for Illinois sports betting, there are also retail casinos in Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin that could offer an alternative.
Wisconsin only has the Oneida Casino IMAC, while Iowa has the Prairie Meadows, Horseshoe Council Bluffs, and the Q Casino and Hotel, all with their extensive sportsbooks. Meanwhile, Indiana retail casinos include the Indiana Grand Racing and Casino, Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, and the Hollywood Casino Lawrenceberg. Missouri retail casinos include the Ameristar Kansas City, Ameristar Casino Resort Spa St. Charles, and the River City Casino and Hotel. However, there doesn’t appear to be any sports betting at the Missouri casinos.
There is plenty to choose from if you are interested in Illinois sports betting. Not only do you have a lot of teams to choose from, but many places you can bet, even if you have to venture over state lines.
There aren’t any tribal casinos in Illinois itself. Therefore, Illinois’s population must venture across state lines to reach a tribal casino.
For example, a tribal-owned casino in Indiana named the Four Winds Southbend. Owned and run by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, the Four Winds Southbend offers poker and slots primarily. Still, it also has an extensive sportsbook covering football, basketball, hockey, and more. Events are regularly held at the Four Winds Southbend Casino, including music and trivia nights.
If Illinois locals ventured into Iowa, they’d find more options. There is the Winnavegas Casino and Resort, the Meskwaki Casino Hotel, and the Blackbird Bend Casino. They all offer poker games, dice games, roulette, and slots.
The Winne-run Winnavegas Casino and Resort boasts a full-bodied getaway experience, including events, golf, pool, and a hot tub, as well as over 750 slot machines and bingo, and the Blackbird Bend Casino, run by the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, offers blackjack, poker, dice, lotteries, roulette, and slots. It also hosts a lot of music acts and offers a buffet restaurant.
However, neither the Winnavegas Casino and Resort, the Meskwaki Casino, nor the Blackbird Bend Casino offers sports betting, although the Winnavegas Casino and the Blackbird Bend Casino insist that it is “on the way,” having been delayed by the Covid pandemic. As of yet, there is no word on whether the Meskwaki Casino is looking into sports betting.
Wisconsin also has three tribal-owned casinos: the Potawatomi, the Lake of the Torches, and Ho-Chunk Gaming Baraboo.
The Potawatomi, run by the Forest County Potawatomi Community, offers blackjack, poker, dice games, lotteries, roulette, over 2,000 slot machines, and sports betting. However, it appears to extend only to off-track betting on horse racing. It offers a whopping eight dining experiences, including the Curve Bar and Canal Street Café. Still, sports fans will be particularly interested in The Fire Pit Sports Bar & Grill, where you can watch all the football, basketball, baseball, and hockey with a plate of “ultimate nachos”.
The Lake of Torches, run by Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, also offers blackjack, poker, dice games, lotteries, roulette, and over 800 slot machines. Still, it, unfortunately, doesn’t offer any sports betting. However, it does have a spa called the Woodland’s Oasis, with an adult and children’s swimming pool, an arcade, a fitness center, a sauna, and a hot tub.
Run by the Ho-Chunk Nation, the Ho-Chunk Gaming Baraboo offers blackjack, poker, dice games, lotteries, roulette, slot machines, and off-track horse racing betting. The Ho-Chunk Gaming Baraboo also offers a pool, hot tub, sauna, fitness center, and music venue.
Daily Fantasy Sports
Illinois might be new to online gambling, but they have dipped its toes in. A long history of somewhat deliberate confusion over the concept allowed the practice to stay illegal under the umbrella concept of Illinois sports betting for a long time. In 2015, the state’s attorney general stated that daily fantasy sports should be considered gambling, and fantasy sports betting stayed under that umbrella, considered illegal by default, until April 2020. At that point, the reins were loosened somewhat, as the Illinois Supreme Court overturned this Attorney General’s stance and allowed that certain daily fantasy sports were legal to bet on under State law.
However, it was a long road to that point, as there were four years of deliberation behind the decision over the case of Dew-Becker vs. Wu in 2016, wherein the plaintiff was sued for having lost $100 in daily fantasy sports betting in head-to-head competitions. Since daily fantasy sports constituted illegal gambling, according to the plaintiff, he could recover his losses under Illinois law. The court went with the defendant’s statement, deciding that “head-to-head” competitions were based on skill rather than luck. The critical part here is “head-to-head” competitions, which were specified based on skill and therefore were open to legalization. Still, few were seen as having that qualification.
However, the ambiguous nature of daily fantasy sports betting allowed for a large population of Illinois sports betting fans to migrate to the idea of fantasy sports. Market leaders Draft Kings and Fanduel soon catered to a large sports betting fan audience.
The list of daily fantasy sports that you can legally bet on in Illinois is made up of:
Fantasy NFL is its most popular option as it is the home of the NFL’s most historic and one of its most popular franchises: the Chicago Bears. Fans redraft their teams weekly rather than every season, so strong is the enthusiasm for the sport.
Fantasy NHL, featuring the Chicago Blackhawks as one of the original six NHL teams founded in 1926. Hockey is well-loved in Illinois due to its historical relevance, which has caused it to rise higher in rankings than expected elsewhere in the US.
Fantasy NBA, with a massive fanbase around the Chicago Bulls and their 90s MVP Michael Jordan. The impact of Michael Jordan alone isn’t to be understated, so you can imagine the market around basketball in Illinois.
Fantasy MBL, featuring the two Chicago baseball teams: the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox. The Cubs winning the World Series in 2016 has prompted a boom in baseball fans, making for a draft market that features a new draft almost every night in a six-month season.
Fantasy college sports encompass football, baseball, basketball, softball, and soccer. Every corner of The Prairie State features a nearby college team that needs support, from Evanston’s Northwestern Wildcats to Chicago’s Loyola Ramblers. College football is particularly popular because it’s not uncommon to see college players elected into the NFL the following year.
If you want to get into daily fantasy Illinois sports betting, you have three main options in terms of providers. The market leaders are the Draft Kings, Fanduel, and Monkey Knife Fight. All three are secure and legal to use.
As for the future, fantasy sports fans will be pleased to hear that it is expected that fantasy sports betting across the board will soon be legalized. Legalizing standard sports betting has taken the argument of “skill-based versus chance-based” off the table, and those in the market are suggesting that sports betting could be entirely legal in Illinois in the next few years.
Offshore Sports Betting
Offshore betting is still available but less necessary since the legalization of sports betting in Illinois and neighboring states. The general stance by authorities is that offshore casinos and sportsbooks should be avoided. They might have contributed to legalizing sports betting in the famously liberal state.
If you are looking at offshore platforms, check that they are regulated by companies from Costa Rica or Curacao, which are considered safe to use since they are recognized internationally. Any other offshore regulator is risky, and it’s perilous to use an offshore sports betting provider that isn’t regulated. If they aren’t regulated, they can use unethical gambling methods to gain money, which could negatively affect your wallet, mental health, and financial wellbeing. Licensed online casinos offer a safety net and have the means of giving you back your money should something go wrong. If an offshore casino isn’t licensed, they don’t have the incentive to treat you and your money with such respect.
Illinois Horse Racing & Off-Track Betting
Illinois, throughout its history, has always had one exception to illegal sports betting: horse racing. The state has three horse racing tracks there were built around the turn of the century and were designed as luxurious spaces to indulge in sports betting.
The three biggest racinos are the Harlem Race Track, the Hawthorne Race Course, and the Washington Park Race Track.
The Harlem Race Track, as of 2021, was absorbed by the Forest Park Plaza. It appears to be out of use as a race track, but it was once used for horse and auto racing in its history.
Unfortunately, a fire burned down the Washington Park Race Track in 1977, causing the track to go out of business. Perhaps because sports betting was considered illegal in the state, both projects were left alone.
However, the Hawthorne Race Course in Chicago is in full swing. There are races scheduled almost every day, and a casino is in the works, with construction expected to be complete in 2023. The Hawthorn Race Course uses the PointsBet sportsbook, which means you’ll have to open an account with PointsBet to be part of the gambling fun here.
Final Thoughts / Summary
It has been a long and slow journey to a legal Illinois sports betting status. In a state with such a rich history in sports betting, be it underground, horse and auto racing, or the newer fantasy sports option, it seems only right that the decision to ban Illinois sports betting was eventually overturned.
Since then, Illinois has enjoyed several outlets for their sports betting desires to pop up in the market. Not only can Illinois locals now enjoy betting on their favorite NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL teams, and more, but they can enjoy daily fantasy sports betting, which covers all professional teams and college-level teams. This makes for a very engaged market hungry to get started. We will likely see more sports betting companies, and online sportsbooks appear in the future.