When it comes to what sports you can bet on in Illinois, there are a lot of similarities to sports betting in other US states. There are some unique restrictions, though, on how sports fans in Illinois can bet on their favorite sports.
While the State of Illinois officially legalized sports betting in June 2019, the first physical sportsbook didn’t start accepting bets until March 2020 – just in time for the coronavirus lockdown.
For a period of time, Governor J. B. Pritzker issued an executive order eliminating the requirement for in-person registration for online sportsbooks. Unfortunately, the Governor quickly reinstituted the restriction in July 2020.
Although this places a bit of an onerous restriction for sports bettors looking to start betting immediately, there are still loads of opportunities for fans to bet on their favorite Illinois teams.
Live Illinois Online Sportsbooks
- Rivers Casino’s BetRivers Online Sportsbook, Launched in June of 2020.
Right now, Illinois sports bettors only have one option to place online sports bets. However, we predict that by mid-2022, the state will boast as many as 23 different sports betting sites and sportsbook apps.
Not only can the 10 casinos, seven pro sports venues, and three racetracks launch an online sportsbook, three online-only options are also allowed.
While the market may not be able to support as many as 23, the state’s large population and notorious love for Chicago sports make it a feasible possibility. Only time will tell.
What Will You Be Able To Bet On?
Illinois may become a state where legal sports betting is defined more liberally than practically anywhere else.
The reason is that the Illinois Gaming Board defines sports as professional and collegiate athletic and skill competitions – as well as any game of skill deemed an acceptable inclusion by the Board.
That means, at least for now, people in the state can legally bet on:
- Professional Leagues (including all Chicago teams)
- Collegiate Sports (EXCLUDING in-state schools)
- Horse and Auto Racing
- International Professional Leagues
Professional Leagues In Illinois
NFL: Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears play at Soldier Field, which is located on Museum Campus right near Downtown Chicago. Soldier Field holds 61,500 sports fans.
While the Bears have only won Super Bowl XX (1985 season), they boast the most regular-season wins than any other NFL team.
As it stands, the Bears are a long-shot to win the 2021 Super Bowl. While they locked down grade A cornerback Jaylon Johnson out of Utah, they went without a first-round draft pick for the second season in a row.
However, they obtained tight end Jimmy Graham from their archrivals, The Packers, which gives them a strong veteran player. While Graham hasn’t been performing at his peak, he could more than pay for himself if he bounces back.
But, like 2019, 2020 doesn’t look like the Bear’s year. CBS Sports has them at 40 to 1 odds to win it all, which puts Da Bears in da bottom 50%. Regardless, Bears fans will be able to place online sports bets on Bears games as well as all other professional football games in the US.
MLB: Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs are one of the original eight MLB teams from way back in 1876. The famed Wrigley Field, a fixture of Chicago’s north side, is also the second oldest continually operating stadium (after Fenway Park in Boston).
In recent history, the Chicago Cubs broke a World Series dry spell that spanned over a century when they beat the Cleveland Indians in 2016.
Even more recently, they’ve added a few promising names to the roster, including power hitter Nicholas Castellanos. But the biggest grabs come from second baseman Tony Kemp and relief pitcher David Phelps.
But World Series hopes aren’t high. Right now, the Cubs are barely in the top ten most likely to win it, with the LA Dodgers, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros the far and wide favorites for the time being.
At the BetRivers sportsbook., the Cubs’ odds of winning it all are identical to that of their fierce rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, at +2200. Still, Cubs fans can place bets on Cubs games as well as all MLB games nationwide.
MLB: Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox have a pretty comparable team to that of their crosstown counterpart, the Cubs. While BetRivers lists Cubs futures at +2200, the White Sox are right behind them at +2500.
In 1991, what’s now known as Guaranteed Rate Field opened to host White Sox games. And the South Side’s team of choice won the World Series as recently as 2005.
Unfortunately, this year isn’t looking good for an American League Pennant much less the World Series.
With their best pitcher Michael Kopech out for the season and a mere 60 games to get into form, this year is looking like a bit of a wash. The concerns only compile with third baseman Yoan Moncada potentially missing Opening Day, which means he’ll have even less time to get into a groove.
However, they have strength in the rest of the team, and White Sox fans have plenty of reasons to remain hopeful. Hey, at least they’re not Detroit, whose odds of winning the Series are listed at +75000. Regardless, sports betting fans in Illinois can bet on both local teams or all MLB teams nationwide.
NBA: Chicago Bulls
Bulls fans learned some interesting history about their Chicago NBA team in ESPN’s 2020 docuseries The Last Dance. They learned that the Chicago Sting, which was a soccer team that no longer exists, drew a bigger crowd than the Chicago Bulls before Michael Jordan’s arrival to the city.
But once Michael Jordan arrived and the team added the likes of Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, they accomplished two NBA Championship three-peats between 1991 and 1998. In fact, the 1990s Bulls and Jordan’s inclusion on the Olympic Dream Team are largely credited for making basketball an international sport.
Today’s Bulls didn’t even make it to the 2020 playoffs. However, they have an extremely promising young talent in Wendell Carter Jr., and Thaddeus Young is also exceptional.
At the end of the day, this team has a long way to go before it has a real shot at a ring. But with no championships since the Jordan Era, the Bulls are due for a comeback. Bulls fans can place bets on all NBA match-ups from Illinois.
WNBA: Chicago Sky
While the Chicago Sky has yet to win a championship, they were only formed in 2005, so it’s not like they’re dealing with a dry spell. Still, they’re due to win the WNBA Finals.
In late 2018, the Chicago Sky hired James “Coco” Wade, who would go on to become 2019’s coach of the year. The team also drafted some incredibly promising prospects, including Katie Lou Samuelson, Chloe Jackson, and Maria Conde. They also signed Kayla Alexander, who was Syracuse University’s all-time leading scorer and blocker.
Still, the Chicago Sky is far from a 2020 WNBA Finals favorite. They’re ranked seventh of 12 teams by their odds, which are +2000. Those are very long compared to the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics, which sit at +300 and +350 respectively. WNBA fans can place bets on the Sky as well as all WNBA games across the country.
NHL: Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup three times recently: 2009–10, 2012–13, and 2014–15.
Of the 24 teams competing in the playoffs, the Blackhawks are the biggest longshot for the 2020 Cup, listed at 7500+ on BetRivers. There’s a pretty high likelihood that they’ll lose in the qualifier series against the Oilers, especially with Corey Crawford “unfit to play” for the first days of summer camp.
However, the Blackhawks recently picked up free agents Wyatt Kalynuk and Pius Suter. They also called up a good number of players from the minors.
Beyond that, though, there’s not much to say about this team. The star players are the same as they were when they last won the Stanley Cup, including Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Patrick Kane.
Much like online sports betting in Illinois, only time will tell with the Blackhawks. Hockey fans can still try their luck on the Blackhawks or can place bets on all NHL regular-season and championship games from Illinois.
MLS: Chicago Fire
The Chicago Fire finally play their games in Soldier Field once again. For years, this team played all the way in Bridgeport at a stadium that couldn’t be reached through the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). Their return to a more convenient location means they could see more revenue, which might lead to better players, which could lead to another MLS Cup.
Because, right now, the Chicago Fire is one of the worst teams in the MLS. They haven’t won an MLS Cup since their first-ever season in 1998. And while they’ve won four US Open Cups, the most recent was in 2006.
In 2019, one of the stars of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning team, Bastian Schweinsteiger, retired, leaving them without an internationally renowned player.
However, C.J. Sapong can bulge the back of the net as well as anyone, and their young, new squad has a chance to shut down the doubters. Soccer fans can place online sports bets from Illinois for all MLS matches.
College Sports In Illinois
It is legal to bet on college sports in Illinois – except for those located in-state. That means you can’t bet on the University of Illinois, DePaul, Northwestern, Loyola, or Northern Illinois within state lines. This is true whether the team is playing in Illinois or out-of-state.
However, you can legally bet on Notre Dame, which is a particular favorite among Chicagoans. In fact, the city probably has more out-of-state alumni bars than in-state.
Still, college football and basketball fans will likely be let down by the restriction. But you can drive to Iowa, Indiana, or Michigan to place a legal bet on your favorite Illinois college team.
Below, we go over a few of the most popular D1 college teams that have both football and basketball teams.
University Of Illinois Fighting Illini
The Fighting Illini is one of three Illinois schools known for their basketball teams, the other two being DePaul and Loyola, neither of which have football teams.
But of those three, the University of Illinois has the best historical record. On top of appearing in the NCAA Tournament over 30 times, they’ve made it to five Final Fours. They’ve also won two Big Ten tournaments.
The Fighting Illini are also one of the biggest football schools in the country. As of writing this article, they were ranked 62 in the CBS Sports 130, which is the highest of any Illinois schools.
In fact, the football team is probably more revered than the basketball team could ever hope to be. They have five national championships and 15 Big Ten championships under their belts, and they play in front of up to 60,670 fans at Memorial Stadium.
Northern Illinois University Huskies
The Huskies have only made it to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament three times in ‘82, ‘91, and ‘96 – and never made it out of the first round. Their best seed was 12. In 1982, they also won the Mid-Atlantic Conference tournament.
But the football team is where the Huskies really stand out. On top of winning five national championships in 1983, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2018, they’ve also made twelve post-season bowls, including the Orange Bowl.
While they’re currently sitting at number 106 of the CBS Sports 130, their team’s competitiveness in the league makes them a worthy bet for matchups all season long. With their archrivals, Ball State ranked in at 97, that game alone will be worth putting some money on.
Northwestern University Wildcats
Northwestern University is located in Evanston, Illinois, which is at the end of the CTA’s northbound Red and Purple lines. That makes them a particularly popular college team among Chicago residents.
As the smallest university in the Big 10, the Northwestern Wildcats Men’s Basketball team is normally the underdog during the regular season. But don’t count them out: they went to the NCAA Basketball Tournament in 2017. While it was their first and only appearance, it proves they’re capable of making a title run.
Much like its other D1 schools that boast a football team, it’s that side of the athletic department where you can find the most accolades. Ryan Field, accessible via the Chicago train system, holds a respectable 47,130 fans. The team has also competed in 15 bowls.
Other US Sports
Avid sports bettors don’t usually limit their wagers to in-state teams. But local fandom often translates to an appreciation for the sport as a whole. With that in mind, it’s not a surprise that the most popular events that bettors in Illinois like to place their bets on are:
- The Super Bowl
- March Madness NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament
- Kentucky Derby
- Big boxing bouts
- World Series
Despite the fact that Chicago has never hosted a Super Bowl (the weather in February is horrendous), the city lights up on Super Bowl Sunday – as will the legal sportsbooks across the State of Illinois starting in 2021.
Chicago will also be a host city for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds of the 2022 March Madness tournament.
Illinois is also a bit of a horse racing hotspot, with three tracks and a large number of off-track betting locations. It’s an open secret that you can get in on Kentucky Derby pools at bars across Chicago. With sports betting now legalized, the number of residents wagering on horses will only go up.
Because Chicago is a major sports town, every major sporting event will have an avid following. Perhaps its two MLB teams make the World Series a bigger deal than it is in other areas. But wherever there’s action, Illinois sports bettors will make an appearance.
Betting On International Sports And Events In Illinois
For some reason, Chicago is not one of the cities to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The closest host cities to Illinois are Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Nashville.
But don’t think that bitterness is going to stop folks across the state from betting on the World Cup. If you had a dollar for every soccer bar in Chicago, you’d have enough to buy a few pints. And you can be sure that all the online sportsbooks will have special promotions for both the 2022 and 2026 tournaments.
The second biggest sporting event in the world after the World Cup are the Olympic games. Both the winter and summer contests will draw a huge amount of bets from people in Illinois, and the sportsbooks are already taking bets on qualifiers.
People in Illinois also love betting on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is one of three sports car races that make up the Triple Crown of Motorsport. The other two? The Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500.
Because sports betting sites and apps in Illinois can offer picks on any international competition, all major worldwide events will be represented.
Esports In Illinois
An esport is a competitive video game. Examples include League of Legends, Dota, Counter-Strike, Overwatch, and StarCraft. It’s legal to bet on esports in Illinois.
The popularity of betting on esports is growing in the US. However, some states have made it illegal, including Indiana. However, Nevada has legalized it, so there is some major precedent for allowing wagers.
At BetRivers, they rarely offer esports bets, but they did take bets on the 2019 League of Legends World Championship.
Kinds Of Sports Bets Available In Illinois
Right now, BetRivers is the only live online sportsbook legally available to people located in Illinois. DraftKings, FanDuel, and other apps are sure to follow. But all legitimate betting sites and apps in Illinois will offer these standard types of bets.
|Types Of Bet||Description|
|Moneylines||A simple bet that a team will win. Score doesn’t matter.|
|Point Spread||A bet that a team will either win by a certain number of points or won’t lose by a certain number of points.|
|Futures||A bet that a team will win an event or title in the future.|
|Prop Bets||Betting on specific events or player performances that occur during a specific game.|
|In-Play/Live Betting||Bets placed on a game after it’s begun.|
|Parlay||A wager on multiple teams that doesn’t pay out unless all bets are correct.|
|Round Robin||The same as a parlay, except you don’t necessarily need to win every bet for a payout.|
|Teaser||The same as a parlay, but you’re able to adjust the point spreads.|
|Over/Under (AKA Total)||Betting that the total points will be over or under the amount listed by the sportsbook.|
Restrictions On Sports Betting In Illinois
The reason that some states have outright banned bets on esports is that professional esports teams will often have players under the age of 18. For the same reason, betting on high school sports is strictly illegal across the US without exception. The same is true for minor league sports events in Illinois.
As already mentioned, you can’t bet on in-state college sports either. You also have to be at least 21 to place a legal sportsbook bet, and you need to be physically located within state lines to make a wager. You can register from out of state, but need to be located in the state to complete the bet.
To win money on sports between the age of 18 and 20, you can legally bet on the horses as well as play Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS).
People in Illinois also have the option to exclude themselves from all online sportsbooks in the state at once. This was implemented to protect those at risk for gambling addiction.
Illinois Legal Sports Betting FAQs
Yes. Online sports betting is legal in Illinois. It was officially legalized in 2019. The first legal sports bet in the state was placed in March 2020. The first online sportsbook, BetRivers, launched in June 2020.
Right now, BetRivers is the only online sportsbook app, but several other brands are on the way. By 2022, adults over 21 located in state lines should have over 20 sports betting sites and apps at their disposal.
Yes, but you cannot bet on college teams located within the state. If you’re located in Illinois, you can only legally bet on out-of-state collegiate sports. It’s a stipulation in the Illinois sports betting law that’s on the books, so there’s a very low chance it will ever be changed. This rule against in-state colleges applies to both in-person and online betting.
No. It is specifically illegal to bet on high school sports in the State of Illinois. It doesn’t matter if it’s an in-state or out-of-state school, it’s strictly prohibited.
The reason is pretty simple: all the players are children.
As far as we know, no states allow legal high school bets. Some offshore sites may take those bets, but it is not recommended to deposit money at an illegal sportsbook.
Yes. At least right now, it is legal to bet on esports in Illinois. The bigger question is whether the sportsbook will offer it. BetRivers very rarely offers it at their site, only taking wagers on the world’s biggest esports events.
There’s also a chance that the Illinois Gaming Board will outlaw it in the future if someone brings it to their attention. But for now, it’s not expressly illegal.
Yes. You can bet on the Olympics on the BetRivers app as well as any other in-person and online sportsbook in Illinois. Both the summer and winter games are extremely popular betting categories.
On top of betting on outright winners, you can also wager on player performance. In fact, player props and futures are extremely popular Olympic betting options.
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) regulates sports betting in the state.
On their website, they offer a large number of resources related to all forms of gaming, including casinos and sports. The IGB website is also where you can find out if there are any new proposals to the sports betting rules and regulations.
Interested parties can also find the complete Sports Wagering Act (230 ILCS 45) on the IGB website.