Illinois Sports Betting Operational for March Madness College Basketball Tournament

Posted on: February 17, 2020, 11:52h. 

Last updated on: February 17, 2020, 12:44h.

Illinois sports betting will be up and running in time for the March Madness college basketball tournament, said Governor J.B. Pritzker (D).

Illinois sports betting Chicago Bears
Legal sports betting on the Chicago Bears will be available in Illinois later this year. (Image: Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports)

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) issued the first three sports betting licenses late last month. The recipients were Penn National Gaming, Eldorado Resorts, and Midwest Gaming and Entertainment.

Sports betting, both land-based and mobile, became legal in Illinois through the massive gaming expansion package signed by Pritzker last June. Since then, the IGB has been determining the regulations that will govern how gambling on sports works in the Land of Lincoln.

The governor feels the first sports bet will be wagered ahead of, or during, March Madness.

The governor is pleased that Illinois sportsbooks will open for business by March Madness, generating revenue to rebuild universities, hospitals, and other facilities across the state,” the governor’s spokesperson, Jordan Abudayyeh, said.

She added, “Illinois’ largest-ever capital plan, with investments in every part of the state, Rebuild Illinois, was supported by Democrats and Republicans alike because it will create and support over half a million jobs over the next six years.”

Illinois Schools Prohibited

Pritzker and sports betting operators hoped to be in business for this month’s Super Bowl. Though the most-bet sporting event of the year in the United States was missed, March Madness is a nice consolation.

In the IGB’s second set of issued rules for sports betting released last month, sportsbooks will be barred from taking wagers on minor league teams or high school events. Wagering on any game involving an Illinois college is also forbidden.

That means that regardless of whether Illinois qualifies for March Madness, no legal wagers on the Fighting Illini will be made.

Under the Illinois Sports Wagering Act, the state’s 10 casinos, three horse racetracks, and seven sports stadiums can acquire sports betting licenses. Each comes at a price of $10 million.

While that fee is steep – only matched in Pennsylvania’s heavily taxed gaming industry – operators such as Penn National and Eldorado receive 18 months of exclusivity from non-land based sports betting companies such as DraftKings and FanDuel.

Grand Projections

Gross gaming revenue from sports will be taxed at 25 percent. Illinois lawmakers believe sports betting will be a massive financial success for the state’s coffers.

Las Vegas-based Global Market Advisors, a casino consulting firm, projects that annual handle could hit as high as $5.2 billion in Illinois by 2023. That would put the state in the realm of Nevada and New Jersey.

States opting into sports betting must assure their tax and licensing structures don’t put regulated sportsbooks at too much of a competitive disadvantage with offshore companies.

“They (offshore bookies) are able to price their products at a very attractive level,” Drake University gaming law professor Keith Miller said. “It really presents a challenge when you have as many taxes, license fees, integrity fees … to have sports books operators in Illinois be able to make money.”