ESTNN Staff
ESTNN Staff

Illinois Sports Betting – Best Betting Sites & Apps in IL

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For more than 18 months now, sports betting has been legal in Illinois. March 2020 was the month where everything changed in this state. That’s because BetRivers Sportsbook started accepting wagers on all major US sports. However, back then, sports bets could only be taken at a physical location. Fast forward a few months and the first Illinois sports betting sites went live, but the same in-person registration rules do apply. This is expected to change in 2022.

As for the online sports betting scope for this state, things are looking promising. Illinois hasn’t quite exploded for this industry as other states have, but there’s still a long way to go. At the time of writing, just six sports betting apps in Illinois are currently in existence. That’s a lot less than other states such as Michigan or New Jersey, but it’s still a decent range. And if you are an Illinois resident who is over the age of 21, you can place sports wagers on any of these platforms.

As for the very best, names such as FanDuel and DraftKings are present and operational – both worth considering!

Best online sports betting Illinois sites for

  • BetRivers
  • Barstool
  • Caesars

Latest updates on Illinois sports betting

Illinois Sports Betting

There are two key dates to talk about really when it comes to the way in which the sports betting industry has developed in Illinois. The first of these dates is October 2021 – the month in which the handle surpassed the $400 million mark. This is clearly a considerable number, and it’s one that cannot really be ignored. And in the same month, bill HB-3136 was passed in the house. This bill is significant because it outlines that in-person registration, a current requirement, will be removed in March 2022.

This in-person registration requirement prior to punters being able to make online wagers has been problematic, to say the least. This is true from the perspective of both the punters and the online sportsbooks. Once this gets removed, sports betting in Illinois will receive a serious boost in terms of how easy it is to engage in this activity within state borders.

In addition to October 2021, we have to mention December 2021. The handle for sports betting might have surpassed $400 million back in October, but it went beyond $840 million in December 2021. This shows that within just a couple of months, sports betting in Illinois has grown by more than 100%.

Is sports betting legal in Illinois for online wagers?

In a word, yes, online sports betting in Illinois is very much legal and in full flow, at the time of writing. Online sports wagers have been permissible since June 2020, just a couple of months after the first in-person bets were also allowed. However, there is still the nagging requirement for people to register at physical casinos prior to making online bets. This is very much outdated compared with other states that have legalized online sports betting.

All of this is possible thanks to one person primarily – Gov. J.B. Pritzker. He was the first one to really make any moves and push forward a bill to legalize online sports betting in this state. This occurred in 2019, and his bill received the nod of approval through the powers that be in June 2019. With that said, the first legal sports bets wouldn’t be permitted until March 2020, and June 2020 was when the first online bets were allowed – 12 months after the bill was passed.

Where to bet on sports in Illinois?

Asking the question of ‘is sports betting legal in Illinois’ is one thing, and the answer is a resounding yes. The other important question, however, is where you can actually make your bets. On that note, there are two options that are fully legal in Illinois, as highlighted below:

Online

At the time of writing, there are six online sports betting Illinois platforms. Each of these platforms has a live desktop site along with a designated mobile app. Major names such as DraftKings and FanDuel are dominating the space right now, but of course, there are other options to choose from. With this said, if you are to place an online wager in Illinois, you must still register at a physical sportsbook first.

In-person casinos/sportsbooks

As dictated in the legislature for sports betting in Illinois, physical casinos are allowed to accept sports bets. The only thing is that they must submit and receive an additional sports betting license to go along with their casino license. Since Illinois has 10 riverboat casinos, you’d have thought this would provide plenty of opportunities. But only five have been able to submit, get approval, and then create a physical sportsbook at their respective venues.

Then again, the others have all got their applications in progress, so we anticipate that there will be more options in the near future.

Online sportsbooks available now in Illinois

This hybrid system of Illinois sports betting sites and in-person betting is a good setup, but neither is overly convenient due to the in-person registration requirement. With that said, once you have actually completed this requirement, which is a one-time thing, you’ve then got complete freedom of choice over where you place your online bets. And on that note, the six Illinois sports betting platforms currently in operation are as follows:

Barstool Sportsbook

Barstool Sportsbook is an incredibly slick betting site, and these guys are generous when it comes to new customers. All new signups can bag a $1,000 risk-free wager just for registering, and the sportsbook is pretty awesome we must say. There are 20+ sports to bet on, daily odds boosts, exciting parlays, and a solid mobile app to top it all off. Barstool has been in Illinois since March 2021 too, under a deal signed with Hollywood Casinos.

BetRivers Sportsbook

BetRivers Sportsbook has already been killing it in states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey. And now, Illinois residents get to benefit from this fantastic betting platform too. It’s hard to know where to begin with these guys. They are the official partner of the Chicago Bears, they tend to offer 200+ markets for major sporting events, and they offer streaming services. New customers also benefit from a 100% first deposit match of up to $250 – all available thanks to the partnership with Rivers Casino Des Plaines.

Caesars Sportsbook

Betting brands don’t get much bigger than Caesars. These guys have actually acquired the William Hill brand to offer the online sportsbook, and the mobile app is one of the best we’ve seen. Through this platform, you can instantly make live bets, perform cashouts, and even create your very own betting markets. And at the same time, if you join as a new customer, you can get $1,001 worth of risk-free bets. The Grand Victoria Casino has helped Caesars to enter the Illinois betting industry thanks to their deal.

DraftKings Sportsbook

DraftKings is truly a gladiator of the betting world. The sportsbook these guys currently have is immense, with a huge range of sports, markets, and fantastic odds across the board. $1,000 is up for grabs for new customers too, but things don’t stop there. Existing customers benefit from daily bonuses and exclusive markets for prestigious events, making DraftKings one of the most exciting sites out there. And in terms of the partnership, DraftKings has launched in Illinois thanks to Casino Queen.

FanDuel Sportsbook

FanDuel has one of the best welcome bonuses in the state. After you have completed your in-person registration, FanDuel will reward you with $100 worth of free bets – no deposit required. But in addition to this, you can grab a $1,000 risk-free bet for almost any market you like, following a qualifying deposit. Of course, this alone is extremely appealing, but FanDuel proceeds to knock it out of the park with cashouts, instant deposits, enhanced markets, and so much more.

The whole FanDuel Sportsbook experience has been made possible due to the partnership deal with Par-A-Dice Casino.

PointsBet Sportsbook

PointsBet didn’t go down the physical casino route to launch in Illinois. Instead, PointsBet struck a deal with the Hawthorne Racecourse, and they went live in September 2020. One of the great things about PointsBet is that they have $2,000 worth of welcome bonuses, and they offer spread betting for all sports. This makes the platform both rewarding and unique, and it’s a platform we recommend that you try when you can. And in terms of Illinois sports betting apps, it doesn’t get much better.

What about the legal online sports betting apps?

Here’s some great news if you are a punter who prefers the mobile betting game. In Illinois, of the six sports betting platforms that are now live, every single one of them has a mobile app that you can download. This is actually part of the Illinois sports betting laws in general, meaning that you can easily make a bet from anywhere within the state once you’ve gone ahead and set your account up. As a reminder of the partnerships that are in place, please see the list below:

  • Rivers Casino – BetRivers Sportsbook
  • Hawthorne Racetrack – PointsBet Sportsbook
  • Grand Victoria Casino – Caesars Sportsbook
  • Casino Queen – DraftKings Sportsbook
  • Par-A-Dice Casino – FanDuel Sportsbook
  • Hollywood Casinos – Barstool Sportsbook

Note that while these sports betting apps Illinois platforms are currently active, at the time of writing, we firmly expect that more apps will become live in the near future. We believe this to be the case because many other licensing agreements are up for grabs, and as stated by law, all new betting sites must come with a mobile app – no exceptions. And before we continue, we’d like to stress that all betting apps tend to come in both iOS and Android variations.

So regardless of your current device, you should be ready to roll when it comes to downloading such apps and engaging in mobile betting.

Online Sports Betting Sites that could soon come to Illinois

Although there are only six live sportsbooks right now, we do expect that more will join the Illinois market in the near future. This is especially true since the in-person registration rule will be relaxed in March 2022, meaning that a more favorable market for considerable sports betting revenues will become available. So with this said, here are the betting brands that we expect will launch some time soon:

888 Sportsbook

Of the three possible Illinois sports betting sites mentioned here, the 888 Sportsbook is the most nailed on to launch in this state. The reason for this is that the 888 brand is actually owned and operated by Harrah’s in the USA. And as we can see, there are a couple of Harrah’s branded casinos already operating within Illinois. This would mean that for Harrah's to go ahead and launch the 888 Sportsbook, they could simply do so internally.

TVG Sportsbook

TVG sports betting is already a thing in several other states across North America. Now, as you may already know, TVG is primarily a horse racing betting site. And to justify why TVG may launch in Illinois, all we need to do is connect the dots. There are three major race tracks in Illinois, and at the time of writing, each racetrack has submitted a proposal to allow in-person betting at their respective locations.

However, while this would allow in-person betting, there is still the gap of having an online sportsbook assigned to each location – a gap which we feel TVG would fill perfectly.

Unibet Sportsbook

The launch of Unibet in Illinois is one of our more speculative predictions, but there are still some indications that this could well happen. For starters, Unibet has been making quite a push to expand into other states across North America since coming across the pond a few years back. Unibet also has its online systems up and running in other states, so making such a transition would be a piece of cake.

And much like TVG mentioned above, Unibet is one of those sites that covers horse racing quite extensively – perfect for a state like Illinois.

Other things you should know about online sports betting sites in Illinois

Opening a new sports betting account in Illinois

For those that are eager to learn about an ‘easy sign-up process’ with Illinois sports betting sites, don’t get too excited just yet. As we’ve touched upon a few times already, Illinois still has an in-person registration requirement. So even if you find an appropriate online site you’d like to join, you still cannot sign up directly through that platform without visiting a physical casino. This will all change in March 2022, but for now, there is no getting around it.

Therefore, you must visit one of the established casinos that have partnered with the online betting brands, and register for your new account this way. You will be asked to provide proof of your identity, address, date of birth, SSN, and you’ll be asked for some contact details. But the good thing about doing it in person is that you won’t then have to verify your details after setting up the online account. This is something that you have to do when registering online in other states.

And at the same time, this is something you only need to do once. After registering you can enjoy unrestricted access to any and all of your online sports betting Illinois accounts.

What kind of welcome bonus can you get with an Illinois sports betting operator?

Well, when you make the leap and register with one of Illinois’ sports betting platforms, let us tell you now that you will be rewarded. With that said, the rewards can vary from site to site. You’ve no doubt read some of the current welcome bonuses through the information above, and there is a secret we’d like to let you in on. You can grab all of these sign-up bonuses if you want, as there are no restrictions in terms of how many online accounts you can have.

In addition to this, there is nothing stopping you from claiming the biggest and best sign-up offers currently available. So if that’s what you are looking for, we recommend choosing either PointsBet or BetRivers. With PointsBet, you can bet as much as $2,000 with the promise that any sustained losses will be reimbursed. And with BetRivers, you can bag a $250 deposit bonus which has very few restrictions – unlike the risk-free bets offered at other sites.

Of course, these are just two forms of welcome bonuses, and we’d like to cover all of them right now to ensure you understand how each one works:

Boosted odds

When you make a bet at any sports betting site, the odds determine what you could potentially win. Therefore, when you see a boosted odds bonus, this means that the odds are kicked up a notch, which also increases your potential returns. Some sites will even double the odds if there is a prestigious event taking place around the time that you register.

Risk-free wager

Imagine making a wager where if it wins, you’ll get the profit, but if it loses, you’ll get your money back. Sound too good to be true? We understand, but these bonuses really do exist for brand new customers at several of Illinois’ sports betting platforms. Many sites offer a refund of up to $1,000 too, which is pretty impressive.

Deposit match

In order to make any real money wagers at Illinois sports betting platforms, you have to deposit some money, period. However, as a new customer, you will often get a nice boost on your first deposit, sometimes as much as 100% or more! Basically, this lets you double your money right off the bat, and all you have to do is deposit funds to qualify.

No deposit bonus

While the above welcome bonus requires a deposit, this one doesn’t, hence the name. This is a perfect bonus for those who aren’t overly convinced about the quality of a site, or for those that simply don’t want to commit any money up-front. No deposit bonuses are handed out at certain sites, but they aren’t as common as the other sign-up bonuses mentioned above.

Brick-and-Mortar Casinos where you can place sports bets

It is perfectly possible to make in-person wagers in Illinois. In fact, this was possible before online betting became a thing. The first in-person bets in Illinois were placed back in March 2020, although only two physical sportsbooks went live that month. And to date, there are still just five physical sportsbooks in Illinois where you can make wagers. This includes Rivers Casino, Argosy Casino, Grand Victoria Casino, Casino Queen, and Par-A-Dice Casino.

With this said, in total, Illinois has 13 locations in which in-person sports betting would be permitted. This is broken down into three race tracks and ten casinos. All ten physical casinos have successfully received sports betting licenses, and all three race tracks have submitted proposals, although none have been approved yet. This means that in the very near future, more physical sportsbooks are likely to become available across the state.

Professional sports venues

This is an interesting category. At the time of writing, the sports betting law dictates that seven sports stadiums will have the right to take on-site wagers from punters. However, no sports venues have actually managed to get this in place as of December 2021. Of these seven sportsbooks, there are two locations that are looking highly probable to go ahead and open a physical sportsbook of some kind. These two locations include Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, as well as Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.

Since these are two of the biggest professional sports teams in both Chicago and Illinois as a whole, we feel these are the most probable venues to go live first. Others could also join the party, of course, but those remaining five sports are a little more uncertain.

Betting on the most popular Illinois sports

NFL

When it comes to the NFL in Illinois, it’s all about the Chicago Bears. While yes, the Bears haven’t exactly been a force to be reckoned with in recent years, they are a legendary professional team in this state. They are followed by Illinois football fans with amazing enthusiasm too. And for those who fancy betting on the NFL, there are usually hundreds of markets listed for individual games at all Illinois sports betting platforms. This range includes individual player markets, spreads, moneylines, and futures betting.

NBA

Remember a player by the name of Michael Jordan? If not – you’re not an NBA fan! Jordan is arguably the greatest player there has ever been, and he put the Chicago Bulls on the map on a global scale. Of course, the Bulls are still a great NBA team that has a huge following in this state, and deservedly so. And as far as sports betting in Illinois goes, the NBA is full of action with hundreds of games covered each season. Make sure that you tune in for the post-season tournament too, as this is where great markets, huge odds, and even better bonuses become available.

MLB

Illinois is a truly blessed state in terms of MLB interests. There are two professional baseball teams here – the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. DraftKings is actually partnered with the Chicago Cubs too, which is why there are many competitive betting options on the site for their games. Both of these teams are pretty successful too, having both managed to win a World Series within the last couple of decades. The way things are shaping up, some punters are even betting on the futures markets for either a Cubs or White Sox season victory in 2022!

However, for those who prefer to keep things on a shorter leash, you can indeed bet on all individual games throughout the MLB season.

NHL

The Chicago Blackhawks are the one and only professional NHL team based in Illinois. They are actually a very successful team too, winning the Stanley Cup 4 times in the last 12 years. With a record like that, it’s no wonder that they have a bunch of loyal fans. Certain Illinois betting sites serve up some great bonuses when the Blackhawks play too, including free bets and boosted odds. But if you want to wager on other teams in the NHL, you can do so with ease thanks to the 100+ markets that are often made available for individual games.

MMA

One of the sports in North America that is picking up steam more than any others is MMA. With both men's and women's competitions, regular fights, and great bonuses for those that want to make wagers – it’s a sport you have to check out. And if you can watch the action after you’ve placed a wager, even better. This is definitely one of the more thrilling and entertaining sports out there, and large fights are well advertised, so you won’t miss them.

MLS

We had to include the MLS here because Illinois has its very own team that competes in the league. This team is the Chicago Fire Football Club, and they are doing okay in terms of their success in the league. With that said, the MLS is by no means as popular as other leagues in North America, but there is plenty of room for growth. And since the MLS is a league that has many teams competing, there is never a dull moment for those looking to place a wager or two.

NCAA

There is a bit of confusion surrounding NCAA betting in Illinois, so let us clear this up. Betting on NCAA competitions for various sports is indeed permitted, however, you cannot bet on in-state collegiate teams. This is actually a rule that is enforced in many other states too, and this is the case to avoid any foul-play in terms of fixed betting. So with this said, you can absolutely bet on major events like March Madness and many others, it just has to be done on teams outside of the state.

History of Illinois Sports Betting

Illinois Sports Betting

Sports betting in Illinois has undergone quite a transformation over the last few years. To understand exactly how we have arrived in the current climate, we need to look back over the course of the last four years. Check out the details below:

2018 – baby steps

‘Baby steps’ is the only way we can describe the efforts made back in 2018. Although five bills were actually put forward to make a change with Illinois sports betting, none of them really gained any traction. And as a matter of fact, the bills only really stated an interest in changing the current laws, rather than putting any obvious plans in action. The bills weren’t even left up to the assessment of the governors of the time either – they were issued to the Illinois Gaming Board who was then asked to decide on the matter.

Then again, Rep. Lou Lang, Sen. Don Harmon, and Sen. Napoleon Harris still deserve credit for lighting the first embers that would lead to the industry we see today. These guys all helped in their own way, especially Napoleon Harris, who had better credibility than the others since he had actually played professional football as a linebacker.

2019 – clear movement on the issue

Although 2018 did see some action regarding changing the laws, nothing came of the efforts. However, this all changed in 2019. H3308 was the name of the bill that had the most impact, at least at the very beginning. This bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Zalewski, and this bill did in fact make it to an official committee hearing on this very issue. Amendments were asked for, but since such ludicrous fees were involved, things once again started to look bleak for Illinois sports betting to become a legalized industry.

But in the final moments, Rep. Bob Rita stepped in and decided that he would be the one to make serious changes. He took it upon himself to move the goalposts and set up requirements for in-state casinos to partner with online brands for this form of betting to become a thing. As history would show us, this move was successful, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed off on the bill that would change the entire industry as we knew it.

This occurred in June 2019, and sports betting would officially be permitted the following year.

2020 – the launch of sports betting

March 2020 would be a historic date for sports betting in Illinois. This was the month where the first sports bets were actually accepted, and Barstool Sportsbook was the first to get in on the action. But while this was an amazingly exciting time for punters in Illinois, there was a problem – global events forced physical casinos to close their doors. So while yes, sports betting was now legal, the in-person registration requirement at physical casinos, which were closed, made the industry’s growth somewhat impossible.

However, a few tweaks were made during this time that allowed a brief period in which people could safely and legally sign up through sports betting apps Illinois without leaving their homes. This boosted activity, but the restrictions were constantly changed on this issue, quite literally from week to week. So while it was great that physical betting was closely followed up with the launch of the first online betting sites, punters were still having a turbulent time.

But the silver lining here was that finally, sports betting was now fully legal in Illinois.

2021 – the breakthrough year

2021 served as the perfect springboard for sports betting to really take off. All six of the live sportsbooks had launched towards the middle-end of 2020, so they were already out of the blocks and ready to take in new customers. At the same time, there was a suspension on in-person sign-ups in order to keep people safe, for obvious reasons. This meant that even those residents who didn’t live near an approved physical casino could set up an account within minutes.

And the reason we say that this was truly a breakthrough year comes down to the numbers relating to growth. In September 2021, sports fans received the exciting updates that professional sports venues were working on plans to allow on-site betting. The very next month, more than $400 million was wagered across all avenues. This then doubled concerning the numbers for December 2021, making Illinois one of the largest states for sports betting according to the handle – over $840 million!

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