Legalized Illinois Sports Betting is so close that those in the Prairie State can almost taste it. On Friday, June 28, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed sports betting into law. This officially gave sports betting in Illinois the green light.
However, it was far from a slam dunk. In fact, it looked like it might not happen before the end of the session, if at all. Efforts to legalize online sports betting failed in 2018, and it went down to the wire this time around.
However, Illinois sports betting passed with little time to spare. It is now just a matter of time before IL sports betting enthusiasts will be placing wagers. Retail outlets and online betting sites will open for business soon. Heck, visitors to O’Hare and Midway can soon kill time on slot machines and video poker terminals. That will make flight delays a little more tolerable.
It seems that IL sports betting might not have been legalized without further gambling expansion in the state. In April, 25 senators let Governor Pritzker know their support was pending.
They wanted assurances that expanded gambling would also be on the agenda.
Additionally, the sports betting bill also needed a couple of amendments and other minor tweaks. It all came together after some frantic effort.
So, along with Illinois sports betting comes expanded gambling. Existing casino gaming establishments will be allowed to expand making more space for table games and slot machines. Communities including Rockford and Waukegan will get casinos, while a massive mega-casino complex is being planned for Chicago.
Currently, the biggest casino in Illinois has 1,200 gaming positions. While the new legislation allows it to expand to 2,000, the new project is expected to feature over 4,000 stations. This new casino is expected to be privately owned and Chicago will receive a third of the tax revenue.
Many gambling proponents expect expanded gambling to play a prominent role in digging Illinois out its financial crunch. Despite high hopes, it is by no means a sure thing. Between 2016 and 2017, Illinois was one of just four states that experienced a drop in consumer casino spending.
From 2013 until 2017, revenue from the state’s casinos dipped by 15%. Offsetting that decline was the growth of video gambling terminals which sharply rose from $30 million to $300 million.
Upon complete implementation, onetime revenues could net Illinois up to $2.7 billion. The new casinos could bring in about $360 million from applications, licenses, and related one-off fees. After that, gambling is projected to haul in about $470 million each year. Annual revenues from slot machines are expected to generate $170 million annually. Table games could be good for about $17 million every year. Despite these hopeful projections, Illinois doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to gambling revenue estimates.
Illinois has at least taken steps to curb the inevitable problems that historically accompany legalized gambling. The budget to treat problem gambling has risen to nearly $7 million. That’s a significant increase from less than one million dollars which is where it was prior to legalization. Other measures, such as the implementation of self-exclusion and other preventative criteria, are also in place.
Illinois’ approach to sports betting is a bit perplexing. Illinois has imposed the third-highest tax rate on bookmakers in the United States. This puts sports betting operators in Illinois at a distinct disadvantage. Sportsbooks have little choice but to pass on costs to bettors. Therefore, sports bettors get less value and wagering activity declines as do those much-needed revenues.
Neighboring Iowa has recently legalized sports betting too. But their tax rate on bookies is much lower. Illinois shouldn’t be surprised if their high hopes, or greed depending on how you see it, costs them dearly. Iowa sportsbooks join Nevada’s sportsbooks as having the lowest tax rates in the country.
Rhode Island and Pennsylvania have a lot to teach Illinois. Rhode Island’s brain trust predicted sports betting would bring in about $2 million in revenues each month. They have been lucky to see even half of those revenues. A 51% tax rate on sports betting revenue is simply not competitive. Pennsylvania’s 36% tax rate on sportsbooks and high licensing fees are bound to have an adverse effect.
Instead of following other states like New Jersey which has exceeded expectations, Illinois appears to be going for the big grab. Only time will tell if their approach is successful. It’s almost a given that experienced Chicago sports betting gurus will be tempted to continue betting with illegal bookies. Either that or place their wagers in Iowa. Both options offer far more value.
Illinois sports betting fans won’t likely be placing bets when their beloved Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks open their respective seasons. While the heavy lifting is over with, there is still a lot of work to do. The state’s new Gaming Board needs to get up and running. Then they have to get down to the business of accepting and approving license applications.
Gambling operators must also form their partnerships. Recently, Hawthorne Race Course and PointsBet announced they plan on building a state-of-the-art venue at Stickney. Three other off-track sites are also anticipated.
Whether a land-based sportsbook or an Illinois online sports betting site strikes the iron first, they’re both coming. Optimists predict legal online Illinois sports betting will come to fruition early in 2020. Perhaps even in time for the Super Bowl.
Illinois has yet to grant licenses for legal online sports betting operations. This makes it difficult to tell exactly who will get them. But, we do know a couple of things. Firstly, DraftKings and FanDuel have been iced out for the time being.
Perhaps a form of payback, the new legislation forbids both entities from operating under their own brand names in Illinois. However, they aren’t completely sidelined. They may still offer an online betting app in the state but the app has to be branded by Caesars.
Speaking of Caesars, because they own Harrah’s, it’s quite likely they will offer Illinoisans a sports betting app. With one already proving successful in New Jersey, it shouldn’t take too long to roll one out once all Illinois sports betting legal steps are taken.
BetRivers is another strong candidate. Of course, some of the world’s biggest sports betting brands like William Hill and 888 have been aggressively expanding. They are poised to get their share of the fledgling Illinois online sports gambling market.
Another thing we know is that every Illinois online sports betting app providers must partner with an existing brick-and-mortar bookmaker. The state is going to make an exception by issuing three online licenses that don’t require a land-based license holder.
These permits will fetch a cool $20 million each. Illinois operators have time to plan for smooth app launches.
Chicago sports betting fans should have a good choice of retail sports betting outlets at their disposal. It appears that the Illinois Gaming Board will issue seven licenses to betting venues in or around large sports facilities. Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, Guaranteed Rate Field, and the United Center will certainly be at the front of the line. These are all positive decisions for Illinois sports betting.
Outside of Chicago, Bridgeview’s SeatGeek Stadium, Joliet’s Chicagoland Speedway, Rosemont’s Allstate Arena, and Wide Technology Raceway are also strong candidates. On top of those possibilities, casinos and existing horse tracks are allowed to open sportsbooks and offer sports betting.
You will notice Northwestern’s Ryan Field is not included in the list of probable sports betting sites? That’s because Illinois will not allow bets on anything related to Illinois schools, colleges, or universities.
The Illinois online sports betting public will also have access to as many as 5,000 betting kiosks. They will be much like traditional lottery booths. A pilot project will permit 2,500 of these licensed retail outlets in the first year. Then, the number should rise to 5,000 the following year. These kiosks will be located throughout the state and at larger facilities. Those in Illinois won’t need to travel very far to place their wagers.
Potential sportsbook operators have to play the waiting game. However, several land-based venues are probably already deep in the planning stages of the bookmaking operations. Casino Queen, which has several locations, is a shoo-in for a sportsbook as is Grand Victoria. Hollywood Casino and Rivers Casino are up there too. Harrah’s should have no trouble securing their sportsbook license and get out of the gate ahead of many others.