Illinois

Sports Betting in Illinois

Like many states, the history of gambling in Illinois dates back to the 1800s. Out West it’s usually a byproduct of the ‘Gold Rush’ but in Illinois it was riverboat gambling. During that era the riverboats were unlicensed and unregulated with plenty of sketchy characters on both sides of the tables where stud poker was the ‘game of choice’.

As the 20th century rolled around, the riverboats started to vanish but before long the state stepped in. In 1927, parimutuel wagering was legalized to facilitate horse racing which was arguably the most popular sports in America at the time. Horse betting in Illinois was popular before it was legal and dates back to the 1800s. During the ‘glory days’ of horse racing Illinois ranked among the epicenters of the sport in the United States with over a half dozen tracks statewide running both a thoroughbred and standardbred meet. The exception was Maywood Park in suburban Chicago which opened in 1946 as a dedicated harness racing facility. Interestingly, the first full harness race card to be televised in its entirety was broadcast from Maywood Park in 1947. The half mile oval track closed in 2015.

Illinois was also one of the first states in the country to offer a state lottery which dates back to 1974. The state was the first in the United States to allow the purchase of lottery tickets online. With this exception Illinois explicitly outlawed ‘online gambling’ in 2009 though the wording of the regulations address the operators of online betting businesses and not players.

Casino gambling is also legal Illinois in the form of 10 riverboat casinos. When they were first legalized they were required to actually be sailing on the rivers. The ‘movement clause’ was repealed in 1999 and the gaming establishments were allowed to remain docked. Charitable casino events are also legal though these are administered by a separate bureaucratic entity. In 2011, legal provision was made for additional land based casinos though none have yet to be built.

The casinos in Illinois are allowed to offer table games including the ‘Big 6’ wheel, blackjack, craps, roulette, Caribbean Stud, 3 card poker and several other proprietary card games.  Players also enjoy ‘Class III’ slot machines similar to those found in Las Vegas or Atlantic City along with video poker and keno. In 2009, the Video Gaming Act legalized video gaming terminals in establishments such as bars and truck stops. A series of legal challenges put the deployment of these machines on hold for a couple of years though a court of appeals ruling in 2011 affirmed their legality.

The Illinois State Lottery offers draw games including Powerball and Mega Millions along with state specific weekly and daily draws. There’s also no shortage of instant win (scratch off) games. There are approximately a half dozen horse tracks open for business in Illinois led Arlington Park which remains one of the premiere thoroughbred tracks ‘between the coasts’.  Several bills to allow sports betting were introduced in 2018 though none have been voted on as of yet.

Sports Betting in Chicago

For much of its history, gambling has been illegal in Chicago. In the days before Illinois became a state there was a booming market of riverboat casinos on what is now the Western border. In Chicago, however, much of the consumer demand for gambling was satisfied by the city’s infamous organized crime presence. Unlike New York City, where there’s still a minimal presence of organized crime operating gambling it has been all but eradicated in Chicago.

In 1927, parimutuel wagering on horse racing which was arguably the most popular sports in America at the time. Horse betting in Illinois was popular before it was legal and dates back to the 1800s. During the ‘glory days’ of horse racing Illinois ranked among the epicenters of the sport in the United States with over a half dozen tracks statewide running both a thoroughbred and standardbred meet. The exception was Maywood Park in suburban Chicago which opened in 1946 as a dedicated harness racing facility and survived until 2015. Fortunately, there’s still a decent horse racing presence in the Chicago area and the state as a whole. Arlington Park remains one of the premiere thoroughbred tracks ‘between the coasts’ and Hawthorne Park continues to run live harness racing..

Casino gambling is also legal Illinois in the form of 10 riverboat casinos. When they were first legalized they were required to actually be sailing on the rivers. The ‘movement clause’ was repealed in 1999 and the gaming establishments were allowed to remain docked. Charitable casino events are also legal though these are administered by a separate bureaucratic entity. In 2011, legal provision was made for additional land based casinos though none have yet to be built. There are several riverboat properties in the Chicago area and several more over the border in Indiana.

The casinos in Illinois are allowed to offer table games including the ‘Big 6’ wheel, blackjack, craps, roulette, Caribbean Stud, 3 card poker and several other proprietary card games. Players also enjoy ‘Class III’ slot machines similar to those found in Las Vegas or Atlantic City along with video poker and keno. In 2009, the Video Gaming Act legalized video gaming terminals in establishments such as bars and truck stops. A series of legal challenges put the deployment of these machines on hold for a couple of years though a court of appeals ruling in 2011 affirmed their legality.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see sports betting quickly added to the Illinois gaming mix either through the state’s riverboat casinos, parimutuel facilities, the lottery or some combination thereof. There have been several draft bills introduced in the state legislature during 2018 but none have reached a vote as of yet. The impressive revenues seen in the sports that have authorized sports betting to this point could expedite things.

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