Illinois Casinos May Have Legalized Sports Gambling For March Madness

The excitement surrounding sports betting in Illinois is growing to a fever pitch as of late in the state. Casinos want it up and running. Players want it up and running. The governor wants it up and running.

So, the question remains: When will it be up and running? Sports gambling online and on land is legal in the state as legislation was passed last year. However, since then, there has been little movement forward and even less communication on the issue.

Well, we may have some news.

Illinois has granted temporary operating permits to three casinos in the state. However, this doesn’t mean anyone has been given the green light.

All it means is the necessary steps have been taken to allow these properties to begin receiving wagers once the green light is given.

It’s Madness

March has been designated as the target date for sports betting to launch and why wouldn’t it be as every sports gambler knows, March is the greatest gambling month of the year thanks to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

This is the type of event no one (the players, the casinos, or the governor) wants to miss. But can it happen?

Cory Aronovitz is a gaming attorney with Casino Law Group in Chicago, and he is very optimistic sports betting can launch sometime in March as these gaming operators have done this in other jurisdictions.

“Managing expectations is crucial, and there is a demand for the product,” Aronovitz said. “So, target dates with contingencies are appropriate.”.

The three casinos to launch first will be Argosy Casino Alton, The Grand Victoria Casino Elgin, and Rivers Casino Des Plaines.

“These properties all have sports wagering experience, and aside from tweaks for unique aspects of Illinois regulations, the software has been vetted and utilized in other markets,” Aronovitz said.

Other Opinions on the Matter

Tom Swoik is executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association and another person in the know. He seems very optimistic.

“I think you’ll see something up and running before March Madness, at least at these three facilities,” Swoik said.

Of course, it is possible for the casinos to have their sportsbooks up and running in time for the March Madness, but there are still many quality issues these spaces will need to have down. The sportsbooks will need to complete important testing on their internal control systems, their betting software as well as other compliance operations detailed by state.

These are issues that don’t resolve themselves overnight, and it appears all the work rests in the hands of the sportsbooks. According to Joe Miller, director of policy at the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB), “We’ve given them the tools, and now they can finish the job.”

The state is no stranger to earning tax revenue via the gambing industry. It may be hard to believe, but Illinois already has more video gaming terminals than Las Vegas with 385,945. Illinois collected $444,384,459 in taxes from gaming terminals in 2019, with municipalities collecting a combined $83,833,498.

With the addition of sports betting, Illinois will become the Midwest powerhouse the statehouse so desperately want and need them to be. According to some estimates, the state could record an annual sports betting handle of $5.3 billion by 2023.

These are conservative numbers too. Illinois residents are ready for sports betting and have been taking their action across the border into Indiana. Only time will tell if they have to travel as far in March.


A sports enthusiast, Ryan helps cover sports betting news from around the country, highlighting some of the more interesting events going on in the USA.