Is Sports Betting Legal in Illinois?

How long until Illinois is tired of missing out on legal sports betting? With Indiana and Iowa accepting wagers, both at the casinos and on mobile sports betting apps, Illinois legislators are going to have a hard time standing idly by while their constituents just go across state lines to make their bets.

Right now, there is a waiting period of 18 months for online-only sportsbooks that would have to pay a $20 million licensing fee. They can partner with an existing physical casino, but still face a massive licensing fee that is exorbitantly higher than all of the other states that have adopted legal wagering in light of the Supreme Court decision to overturn PASPA in May 2018.

Not only does the licensing fee border on being cost-prohibitive, but bills proposed within the state also include enormous tax rates on bets.

And, yet, the casino operators are moving forward with plans to construct sportsbooks and there are sure to be lots of behind the scenes negotiations between the physical operators and then the online operators like DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, BetAmerica, and PlaySugarhouse. Caesars already has a presence in the state with its Harrah’s Joliet property and seems like a natural fit to open up one of the first sportsbooks, but that licensing fee is substantial, especially for a company that just had a significant merger with Eldorado.

Can I Bet on Sports in Illinois?

Rather than worry about all the happenings in Illinois, which also includes a pilot program of parlay cards run through the Illinois Lottery, it seems preferable for residents of the Land of Lincoln to simply head west to Iowa or head east to Indiana. Is online sports betting legal in Illinois? No, but it is in Iowa and Indiana, which makes it remarkably easy to get online and start placing bets.

Geolocation tracking is used to ensure that a user is within the state’s borders, but once you cross the border, get the app set up, and fund an account, it is easy to get your bets in. Your account will be restricted to those times when you are within the borders of the state in which you are supposed to be betting. So, betting online in Illinois is not a thing, but driving to Indiana to bet online is a thing and one that residents of Chicago can very easily take advantage of with little effort.

DraftKings and BetRivers were the first two operators to take online sports bets in the Hoosier State on October 3, 2019. The answer to how to bet on sports in Chicago is to make that drive east on I-94, fire up that DraftKings app, and do it that way. DraftKings is such a trusted name in the sports gambling world between its increased presence in the online sports betting landscape and also its longstanding reputation in terms of daily fantasy sports. The idea that Illinoisans can just slide over the border into Gary or Hammond and place bets really does make things awfully convenient.

Chicago’s proximity to other states will eventually be the tipping point, when the state’s politicians see how much money is being lost to apps like DraftKings. The metro population of Chicago could very well be up into the 10 million range sooner rather than later. That is a lot of people and a lot of revenue to lose to Indiana because Illinois does not have legal sports betting. Currently, the metro population is over 9.5 and Chicago is the third largest metro area.

Like we discussed in our survey of betting on sports while living in New York, online sports betting is not legal in New York, so the metro population of New York City is going to New Jersey to bet. That is a sickening amount of lost revenue and Chicago could go the same way, especially when you consider that the Chicagoland area has about 65% of the state’s population!

If online betting isn’t your thing, you can even just slide across the border to go to Horseshoe Hammond, the Ameristar Casino, or the Majestic Star Casino in Indiana and place your bets. But, let’s be honest, the convenience of betting right from your phone on an app or in a browser is second to none.

Those that live opposite Chicago, or maybe just prefer a drive into Iowa, can head west and sign up in person at the Iowa sportsbook of their choice. Mobile sports betting is legal in Iowa as of August 15, 2019, so you can stop in a brick-and-mortar sportsbook, get set up with an app, and then make your bets any time you are in the state. There is a William Hill Sportsbook in Bettendorf, right across the river from Moline.

All of the sports betting odds that you would expect to see are listed in the mobile apps mentioned above, especially DraftKings. Bet on the Blackhawks. Bet on the Bears. Bet on the Cubs. Bet against the White Sox and Bulls. Whatever it is that you want to do with those Chicago teams, you can do it by getting the apps from these neighboring states and betting.

Right now, sports betting apps in Illinois are illegal. Progress is being made, but red tape and extravagant fees are holding everything up. Fortunately, there are options. The people of Illinois just have to travel a little bit to get in the game.

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