How We Chose the Best IL Sportsbooks
A lot went into the process of handpicking our top-rated sportsbooks in Illinois. The competition among operators is cut-throat, so we had to go the extra mile to determine which brands are the best of the best. We’ve evaluated each sportsbook based on several criteria during our selection process, including regulation, bonuses, market depth, banking, quality of odds, and more.
Licensing and Safety
The safety of our readers is our top priority at all times. Therefore, we only recommend state-licensed, legal sportsbooks on our site — sports betting platforms approved by the Illinois Gaming Board. Domestic brands have to comply with the highest accountability, integrity, and regulation standards, which makes them perfectly safe to play in.
In addition to being tightly regulated, IL-based books use cutting-edge security protocols for user data privacy and security. These measures proactively safeguard the money and personal information you share with the sportsbook, keeping them out of harm’s way.
Lastly, our top-rated picks handle player disputes with utmost professionalism. If you get crossways with them about a bonus or an untimely payout, their customer support will go above and beyond to resolve the mix-up and get you back on track.
All sportsbooks featured on our top list offer bets on the Big 4 major leagues — the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB. That being said, the market range reaches far beyond mainstream sports. IL bettors can also find odds and lines for college hoops/football and a wide range of niche markets, including soccer, tennis, and golf.
Bonuses, Odds Boosts, and Promotions
It’s no secret that IL sportsbooks rely on extravagant bonus offers to set themselves apart from the pack. It’s common for a betting operator to offer a huge risk-free bet right out of the gate. Apart from a great intro bonus, there’s usually a fantastic array of ongoing promos up for grabs, too — odds boosts, insurance bets, free bet reloads, you name it.
It’s important to look beneath the surface with these enticing offers, as there are usually plenty of strings attached. The associated T&C should be user-friendly and laid out in a clear fashion. Additionally, the promos must be easily attainable and reasonably easy to clear.
Competitive Odds and Lines
The quality and timeliness of odds and lines are among the key aspects we look for when assessing a given sportsbook. If the betting operator offers above-average prices for core markets, it will gain extra points from our in-house review team.
You’ll find that most IL sportsbooks will allow you to bet on the go, either via a browser-based version of the site and/or standalone iOS/Android apps. However, not all of these mobile platforms are up to scratch in terms of usability and functionality — some are borderline incompetent. With our highest-rated USA smartphone casino apps, your mobile betting experience will go without a hitch.
Features like cash out, parlay builders, custom bet, same-game parlays, and live streaming have become common among major IL sportsbooks. Some brands have gone a step further by offering unique tools you can’t find elsewhere. These can make your betting session more enjoyable and help you rack up bigger wins.
Support and Banking
It’s a fair assumption that all bettors like to get paid as quickly as possible. In that light, payout speed is a significant criterion in our quality assessments. Moreover, we also want to see a diverse range of deposit and withdrawal options.
We also appreciate it when a sportsbook has quality customer service. By extension, the support reps should be responsive, professional, and provide adequate solutions to whatever query you present.
Brief History of Gambling in Illinois
Gambling has been a part of the Illinois landscape since the early 1800s. Back in the day, most of the action took place in semi-legal riverboat casinos. Bettors would wager on backgammon, checkers, card games, cock fights, you name it.
By the 1900s, three major syndicates had a monopoly on gambling activities in the state. They faced strong resistance from federal legislation, which banned racetrack bookmaking and the use of the mails for gambling.
In the years after the prohibition, gambling dominated the organized crime scene in Illinois. The Torrio-Capone organization was at its height at the time, and they were running various underground gambling venues, also known as deuces, across the state.
The first form of legal gambling in Illinois appeared in 1927 when the state legislature authorized pari-mutuel betting. Two years later, the country entered the Great Depression, the largest economic downturn in its history. Churches and charities started organizing bingo games to raise funds, although the pastime wasn’t legalized until decades later.
Not much had happened in the Illinois gambling scene until the 1970s when the state introduced the lottery, which generated over $1.5 billion in sales by 2000. With the passage of the Riverboat Gambling Act in 1990, Illinois became the second state to legalize riverboat casinos. For nearly three decades, they were a staple of the IL gambling industry. This changed in 2019 when Gov. Pritzker signed a monumental sports betting bill.
Sports Betting in Illinois: Timeline
According to industry analysts, in a sports-crazed, populous state, the Illinois sports betting market has huge potential and could even rival Nevada’s. Still, the sector got off to a rocky start, as the coronavirus put a serious crimp on the US sports betting activities.
With the cancellation of major sporting events and national leagues, the IL market took a hit. Worse yet, retail casinos had to shut down, so there wasn’t much wagering going on in Illinois at all.
Meanwhile, the governor went back and forth with the in-person registration mandate. From June 2020 – to April 4, 2021, the rule was paused only to be reinstated, forcing people once again to go to a casino to complete the registration with their online sportsbook. The sports betting bill has recently been amended so that the in-person rule will be eliminated once and for all on March 5, 2022.
Here’s a snapshot of how things went down for the IL sports betting market:
- August 2018: Just a few months after PASPA was lifted, the legislators held a hearing on proposed expanded gaming in Illinois.
- February 2019: Illinois began to work out details on the upcoming sports betting bill.
- March 2019: Rivers Casino owner Neil Bluhm started lobbying against FanDuel and DraftKings as punishment for their illegal DFS operations in Illinois.
- June 2019: Gov. Pritzker signed SB690 into law, legalizing state-wide sports betting in the state, with a few restrictions. Most notably, online-only operators would be allowed to launch in the market after 18 months of being affiliated with a land-based casino partner.
- December 2019: The Illinois Gaming Board released applications for sports betting licenses.
- March 9, 2020: BetRivers Online sportsbook in Des Plaines opened for business as the first sportsbook in the state. Only days afterwards, casinos were shut down due to COVID-19, preventing online books from going live.
- June 2020: Gov. Pritzker waived the in-person registration requirement. BetRivers launched the first online sportsbook in Prairie State.
- April 2021: The Governor reactivated the in-person registration stipulation.
- October 2021: The legislators approved HB 3136, a bill that will close the book on in-person registration. From March 5 onward, Illinois bettors will be able to sign up with their online book remotely.
December 2021: The Chicago City Council approved the mayor’s ordinance to allow in-stadium sports betting. This means that the United Center, Guaranteed Rate Field, Soldier Field, and Wrigley Field are permitted to launch their sports betting products.
Sports Betting in Illinois: License and Tax Information
Illinois has adopted a somewhat unique sports betting model. Altogether, 23 master licenses are up for grabs. These are to be distributed among several entities, as follows:
- Three mobile-only
- Three horse racing tracks
- Seven sports venues
- Ten casinos
Each license holder is allowed one online betting skin.
The state will award a license to the first of the three standalone mobile sportsbooks in early March 2022, at a hefty cost — $20 million, which is twice the amount current online sportsbooks had to pay for their permits.
The seven eligible arenas and stadiums are allowed to open sportsbooks on their premises or within a five-block radius. In addition, lottery retailers are also permitted to offer sports betting under the Illinois Lottery.
Illinois is one of the three states (Tennessee and Michigan being the other two) that require sportsbooks to purchase official league data. Under this mandate, betting brands must buy and use official data from pro leagues to settle Tier 2 sports wagers (live and prop bets).
The Illinois Gaming Board was appointed as the regulatory body for sports betting in the state. Users have to be 21 or older to sign up with a retail or online sportsbook in the state.
The sports betting law also includes a 15% tax rate on GGR, which is roughly in line with the other states. An additional 2% applies to wagers placed within Cook County, an area that also includes Chicago.
Application fees for casinos/racetracks are set at $10 million or 5% of the annual GGR/pari-mutuel betting handle — whichever is lower. Pro sports venues have to pay $10 million to obtain a sports betting license.
How to Get Started in an Illinois Online Sportsbook
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to sign up with an Illinois online sportsbook. For starters, you have to pick a betting operator according to your tastes and preferences. Once you’ve done that and accessed its website, the process is pretty straightforward.
- Click on or tap the Register/Join Now/Sign Up button
- Fill in the required fields and submit your name, address, cell number, and the last four digits of your SSN.
- Double-check the information you’ve provided. If correct, proceed with the registration. Tick the T&C boxes.
- Open your account settings and hit the Deposit tab. Choose a payment method from the list and provide the necessary details. At this stage, the sportsbook will likely ask you to enter the promo code for the welcome bonus.
- Confirm the payment. The funds will be credited to your account shortly.
- Open the sports betting program via the left-side menus and select a market you want to place a wager on. Type in the amount you wish to stake, and submit your wager. Good luck!
Eligibility and Geolocation
The legal age for sports betting in Illinois is 21. This applies to both retail and online sportsbooks.
Geofencing requirements are also in place. This means that you have to be located in Illinois when you’re placing your wager — otherwise, the sportsbook will reject it. Betting operators use advanced geolocation tools to determine their users’ exact location. Geo trackers are extremely accurate, so don’t even try to circumvent this rule.
If you bet via mobile, just turn on your GPS — the satellites will do the rest.
Illinois Sports Betting Partnerships With Professional Teams
Sports are big in Illinois — the Prairie State boasts various professional sports teams, all of which are headquartered in the Chicago area. These include iconic franchises such as the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs, Chicago American Giants, and Chicago Fire FC.
Some of these teams have signed partnerships with betting companies, as follows:
- Chicago Cubs and DraftKings: The winner of the 2016 World Series signed a partnership with the Boston-based gambling giant in September 2020, just one day after the company welcomed the legendary Michael Jordan as its special advisor. Under the terms, DraftKings will build a retail sportsbook adjacent to Wrigley Field.
Chicago Bears and BetRivers: BetRivers became the official betting partner of the NFL squad in June 2021. As part of the partnership, the gambling titan got access to social, print, and digital assets and in-stadium signage.
What Types of Bets Can I Make in Illinois?
You’ll find no shortage of betting choices in Illinois sportsbooks, especially during high-profile events. As a rule of thumb, the more prominent the competition, the richer the market selection.
Here are the most commonly offered types of wagers you’ll find in IL sportsbooks:
- Moneyline bets: Bet on a team or a player to win the contest. Positive odds are attached to underdogs, and negative odds denote the favorites.
- Totals bets: Also known as over/under, totals are wagers placed on a numerical total posted by the book, usually the combined number of points (or whatever scoring unit is used in that sport). The objective is to predict whether the actual total will go over or under the sportsbook’s line.
- Point spread: Or simply called ‘the spread’ is the type of bet where a sportsbook equates two unbalanced teams. It’s especially popular in the NBA and the NFL.
- Props bets: These side wagers revolve around specific aspects within a game and are usually based around stats or players/teams trying to reach a particular milestone. For instance, you can bet on whether Zach LaVine will score more or fewer points than the threshold indicates.
- Futures: As the name implies, these bets are made on something that will happen and finish in the future. It’s contingent on the outcome of numerous games. The Super Bowl and World Series are popular examples of the futures market.
- In-game bets: This is a popular form of betting on events that have already begun. Here, you can wager on the outcome of the next possession, the outcome of specific periods or the final result. As the game progresses, the odds and lines will waver to reflect the momentum swings.
Multi bets: Each of the three combo wagers — parlays, round robins, and teasers — have unique traits. The common denominator is that they all combine individual wagers into one slip for a bigger payout.
What Bets Are Off-Limits?
Illinois, much like New Jersey, has a collegiate betting prohibition in place that prevents bettors from wagering on in-state universities like Northwestern, the University of Illinois, and so forth. The legislators amended the rule to permit such betting but only at retail locations.
As per the law, Illinois sportsbooks are only allowed to take bets on sports. This rules out political affairs and the Oscars. E-sports betting is off the table, too.
The Illinois Supreme Court deemed daily fantasy sports games of skill, and therefore legal, in April 2020.
Responsible Gambling in Illinois
Illinois has a strong, responsible gambling program in place. Sportsbooks offer various tools to help users maintain better control over their gambling expenditures. These include time, deposit, and wager limits in addition to cool-off and self-exclusion programs. Once you enroll with the self-exclusion program, you will be banned from all online books and prohibited from entering retail gambling venues in the state.
ILLINOIS SPORTS BETTING
Is sports betting legal in Illinois?
Yes, Illinois legalized sports betting in June 2019. The first online sportsbook, BetRivers, rolled out a year later.
How old do I have to be to place bets in Illinois sportsbooks?
The legal betting age is set at 21 for all Illinois residents. Bettors are required to be located inside the state’s lines when placing a wager.
Are Illinois betting sites safe?
Yes, they are. These brands passed muster with the Illinois Gaming Board and are also licensed in several other states across the US. We have yet to hear of any unethical practices or security breaches when it comes to these operators.
Do I have to be present in Illinois to place bets?
Yes, you have to be inside the Prairie State when you’re submitting your wager.
Do I have to be a resident of Illinois to bet?
No, you can bet with Illinois sports betting sites as a tourist. It’s only mandatory that you do it within the state borders.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What types of bonuses will I be offered in Illinois sportsbooks?
You’ll have access to numerous promotional offers in Illinois sportsbooks. To begin with, you’ll be awarded a strong welcome bonus. As an existing customer, you’ll be entitled to a range of other promotions.
Do I have to download an app to play with Illinois betting sites?
No, you can get started via the browser-based version of the sportsbook. The same goes for both desktop and mobile bettors.
Can I bet in offshore sportsbooks from Illinois?
Yes, but why would you? With offshore books, you never know what kind of business they’re running. You could easily get ripped off, and you would have no one to turn to for help.
Who regulates sports betting in Illinois?
The Illinois Gaming Board is the regulatory agency for sports betting in the state.
Are there any retail sportsbooks in Illinois?
Yes, there are currently 11 land-based sportsbooks in Illinois, including a few in the Chicago area.