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Sports betting in Illinois

Although Illinois was the trailblazer in the sanctioning of internet lotto games, it has been slow in the process of authorizing sports betting. Nonetheless, punters all over the United States revere it, given that the state has in the past actively allowed its residents to participate in riverboat betting and Horse-betting. Illinois is indeed a paradise for gamblers. The state is also one of the states that started massive plans to legalise online sports betting, following the reap of the federal ban in 2018.

Pundits predicted that by the close of September 2019, Illinois would have legalised sports betting and in particular, online gaming. True to their predictions, Illinois passed a bill that authorised both online sports betting and sportsbook in the spring of 2019.

It is expected that residents of Illinois will be able to place real money sports bet towards the end of 2019 or early 2020 depending on how fast the regulators and operators move in on the matter.

Even as this goes on, it will be of interest to us to re-examine the history of gambling in Illinois.

Top 3 Sportsbooks in Illinois

    The legal history of gambling in Illinois

    Way back in the 19th century, riverboat casinos were all over the rivers in Illinois. These casinos offered stud poker games and were unregulated. With the 20th century came the state-sanctioned Horse race betting. This regulation was also the first time that the state generated income from the gambling sector. The state, having sampled a piece of the revenue pie, did not look back. Instead, it went on to establish premier state lotteries in 1974 and pari-mutuel gambling. Presently, interstate and intrastate lotteries fetch millions of tax dollars in revenue for the state.

    In 1991, the passing of regulations paved the way for the provision of legal betting. This provision saw riverboat casinos make a comeback with the restriction that they stayed confined to the rivers. The state disallowed riverboat casinos on any lakes. However, matters were more liberalised in 2011, with the state assembly’s passing a new law which provided for casinos housed in physical buildings. The 2011 law also increased the number of games offered on the race tracks.

    Further legislation saw the introduction of even more gambling units at bars and truck stops, which became the new trend in the state. This development was, however, not without hurdles, as the new legislation often faced legal battles and constant amendments. Nonetheless, a new dawn has emerged for gambling in the prairie state. Even though it took a while for issues to be smoothened out and for the gambling machines to secure their legitimacy.

    As with other states, online betting in Illinois only became a viable concept in May 2018, following the repeal of the 1992 PASPA by the SCOTUS. The state, having gained momentum in that field through the sale of online lottery tickets,  now contemplated branching into and pursuing internet gaming and sports betting as well.

    These concerted efforts have recently become apparent as it would appear that in just a couple of months from now, sports and internet betting could soon become a reality. In fact, as of June 2019, the state assembly was already contextualising the initial legislative drafts in this regard.

    Luckily for the Illinois residents, the state appears to be a liberal one, meaning its occupants are always at liberty to generally enjoy gambling as a pastime. All the same, pundits predict the firm and permanent establishment of the Illinois gambling sector by early 2020.

    Types of legal betting in Illinois

    Sports Wagering

    Sports wagering exists only in the form of pari-mutuel gambling offered at designated Horse racing tracks. However, following the legalisation of online sports betting and online gaming through mobile betting platforms, its is expected that residents of illinois will start enjoying legal sports betting starting 2020.

    Online Sports Betting

    Following the end of proscription by the SCOTUS in May 2018, legislators all around the nation were on a scramble to pass laws legitimising and regulating gambling operations. This scramble was particularly with regards to sports and online gambling. Online and mobile betting, however, remain hugely unexplored avenues, but it is highly hoped that come early 2020, the same will have come to fruition.

    Live Poker

    The law has adopted a relaxed attitude towards social poker, as no penalties seem to be in the offing against one who plays it. The riverboat casinos host live poker games, where there are even tournaments for the die-hard fanatics.

    Land-based Casino Betting

    Live casino games are available on the riverboat casinos, following the legalisation of casino gambling. Although this legalisation was hard to come by,  in 1999, the state through its revenue department sanctioned charitable casino games. Incidentally though, even after the 2011 approval of building physical brick and mortar casinos, the state has no land-based casinos.

    Other forms of betting

    Additional types of lawful gambling include raffle bingo games, charity bingo games, online state lottery as well as what are popularly known as charity casino nights which came to the fore in 2001

    Illinois Gambling Statistics

    No. of Commercial Gambling Facilities:Age RequirementsCasino Regulatory Body:Lottery National Rankings:Approx. Annual Gambling RevenueApprox. Annual Gambling Taxes:
    Number of riverboats: 16Minimum age required: 21Illinois Gambling Board12th$2.7 billion$25 million
    Off Track Betting: 1
    Sports Betting Parlours: 0
    Horse Tracks: 5


    Liberal legislation has paved the way for a wide array of gambling activities and even opened up legislators’ minds to the potential offered by sports betting. Given the latest raft of gambling statutes, robust recreational gambling is in the offing as well. This development is undoubtedly good news for the residents of Illinois who should brace themselves for even better times ahead!

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