Sports betting is legal in Illinois thanks to a bill that passed in the early part of June 2019. However, the Prairie State is takings its time to finally launch a finished legal sports betting product in the state. A recent goal was set to have sports betting operating by the 2020 Super Bowl. Given the time it has taken for Illinois to get as far as it has since they passed a sports betting bill, it may be even longer before Illinois residents are placing legal bets in their own state.
Governor J.B. Pritzker legalized sports betting as part of a larger capital bill in what became an extended session of the general assembly. The new sports betting law allows for both physical and state-wide mobile betting. However, mobile betting can not begin until 18 months after the launch of retail sports betting, unless a master license is obtained. This is the state’s way of keeping out the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings from operating on their own, giving local casinos a leg up on the competition.
Before the current bill passed, there were a few others that Illinois considered since the PASPA decision in 2018. The first bill was HB4214. HB4214 was actually introduced prior to the PASPA ruling. In January of 2018, HB4214 was introduced by Representative Lou Lang. The bill was merely an attempt for Illinois to begin a discussion on the issue of legal sports betting.
A few more bills were introduced between Lang’s HB4214 and the bill that Pritzker signed into law. The most notable of those was perhaps SB3432. This bill was introduced in February of 2018 by former NFL player Napolean Harris. Senator Harris’ bill was the first, and only, in the state that included the highly debated “integrity fee” that the major sporting leagues were seeking from each state that legalized sports betting.
SB3432 would have allowed for sports betting to operate at facilities authorized under the Riverboat Gambling Act. It also would have allowed for both in-person and mobile betting. Taxes were set at 12.5% of gross sports wagering revenue. The bill eventually died in January 2019.
The bill that Pritzker eventually signed into law, SB690, was an 816-page bill with a $45 billion infrastructure plan. Aside from legalizing sports betting, the bill also called for six new casinos in the state, among other things.
One notable aspect of sports betting in Illinois is the “bad actor” clause. This is the clause keeps the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings out of Illinois for at least 18 months. This penalty period gives local casinos a chance to get a leg up on the online giants. Out-of-state providers are allowed to partner with in-state racetracks, casinos, or sporting venues during the 18-month period. After which, the online operators would be allowed to operate independently. An online wagering license in Illinois is set a $20 million.
Bettors will be required to visit a physical casino in-person to apply for an online betting account. After signing up in-person, bettors will be able to place mobile wagers from anywhere inside Illinois state lines.
The slow and steady approach in Illinois has caused the state to fall behind the neighboring competition. Sports betting launched to the West in Iowa on August 15th. Indiana, to the East, saw sports betting begin in early September. Tennesee to the south has sports betting legalized via mobile-only. To the Northeast, Michigan is expected to legalize sports betting in the near future.
With two neighboring states already offering sports betting, Illinois is losing money with each passing month between now and when sports betting is launched. Once sports betting does go live, the amount of out-of-state traffic will most likely be limited as well. Residents from specific areas in Missouri, Kentucky, and Wisconsin will be among the only out-of-state residents traveling across state lines to bet in Illinois. Even traffic from those states will be limited as they each border a state that already has legal sports betting launched.
Slow and steady may win the race in some aspects but Illinois will be far behind other states in its region. There is even a possibility that a state like Michigan could be live before Illinois if things move quickly for Michigan.
Where We Are Now
Illinois recently held a 30-day public comment period that ended on September 27th. The purpose of the month-long comment period was to gather input and ideas from the public as well as stakeholders in the Illinois gambling market. Illinois Gaming Board Administrator had this to say about the public comment period:
“This public comment period is an important step in a process to ethically and expeditiously establish a regulatory framework to allow sports wagering in Illinois. In order to make the process of rule creation as transparent and independent as possible, it is important that the public and various stakeholders have an equal opportunity to submit comments about the Sports Wagering Act contained in P.A 101-0031.”
Now that the comment period is over, Illinois can take the next step to launch sports betting. The board must now draft up rules and regulations, including licensing. This is the next biggest step on the way to bringing sports betting to Illinois. Based on the past, we can expect Illinois to take its time with this issue. Once rules and regulations are published we will get a more accurate timeline of when Illinois expects sports betting to launch in the state. For the time being, it appears 2020 is the most likely scenario. As for the upcoming Super Bowl, it appears to be a 50-50 shot as to whether Illinois bettors will be able to bet at home or have to cross state lines into Iowa or Indiana.