Guide to Betting on Sports in Illinois

The Illinois sports betting market has rapidly expanded since its legalization in 2019 and a full launch in 2020. As of this writing, both mobile and retail sports betting is allowed in the Land of Lincoln, and you can even place collegiate sports bets provided they do not include in-state teams.

Interested in checking out sports betting in Illinois? There’s good news; you have lots of different options. Let’s take a look at Illinois’s sports betting industry in greater detail so you know where and when to put your money down on a profitable wager.

Illinois sports betting timeline

Sports betting was illegal in Illinois until a government spending bill, which included a provision for sports betting legalization, was passed in June 2019 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. In a nutshell, this legislation legalized sports betting at official sports arenas, casinos, and racetracks, as well as allowed licensure for mobile sportsbook operators.

The bill also stated that bets can only be taken on sports, and not non-sporting events, such as the Oscars or political elections. Additionally, the Illinois sports betting bill said that people involved in sports leagues cannot bet on their sports. Notably, Illinois’s sports betting legislation banned collegiate sports bets for any sporting matches, both in-state and out, that include Illinois college sports teams.

The first legal bet was launched at the Rivers Casino Des Plaines on March 9, 2020. Afterward, BetRivers launched a digital sportsbook, the first digital sportsbook in the state; it’s one of five mobile sportsbooks now operating in Illinois.

Signing up at an Illinois sportsbook

If you are trying to figure out how a sportsbook operates and you want to start by signing up to one, the process is the same no matter which sportsbook you decide to sign up for. First, you will need to create an account. This is almost the same as creating an account on any other website.

You give your name, email address, birth date, address, and username and password. Once you have all of that and set up your account, you will receive a confirmation email and once you click it, then your account will be set up. Since you will be using money, the information needs to be accurate and it will be checked.

Then you can link a bank account, credit or debit card account, or some other funding method so you can pay for your sports wagers. Many sportsbooks offer excellent opening bonuses, allowing you to boost your initial wagering cash or enjoy a risk-free bet, etc.

Best IL sportsbooks

The best sportsbooks in Illinois are the four below, which also happen to be some very good worldwide sportsbooks as well.

DraftKings Sportsbook IL

One of the best options for sports bettors in Illinois is DraftKings Sportsbook, which also provides daily fantasy sports to Illinois residents. It also opened itself up to live sports betting, and you can now wager on dozens of live sporting events. These include the NFL, NHL, NBA, and other sports leagues, and once you click on a sport you can connect with the daily wagers.

You will be able to place your bets on dozens of scenarios and make different wagers all with the press of a few buttons. It’s never been easier.

FanDuel Sportsbook IL

FanDuel Sportsbook is right up next to DraftKings in being one of the larger sportsbook options out in the world. It offers both daily fantasy sports and live sports betting on various sporting events. Much like DraftKings, the signup process for FanDuel is very easy and the sportsbook provides a generous opening bonus worth up to $1,000 in the form of a risk-free bet.

PointBet Sportsbook IL

PointsBet Sportsbook is very similar to the above two betting services but offers a unique betting type called PointsBetting.

With PointsBetting, your wager winnings may change depending on how well or how poorly your team did throughout the game. For example, if you bet $100 that the Chiefs will beat the Cowboys 28-21, and the Chiefs end up winning by 35, then you will add seven times your wager to your winnings. Similarly, if the Chiefs lose by seven points, then you lose seven times your wager.

It’s a very interesting wager type that can help increase your interest in a game and may result in higher profits than you anticipated.

BetRivers Sportsbook IL

BetRivers was the first mobile betting service to open in Illinois, and they are one of the biggest sportsbooks to launch in 2020. The website and app are very simplistic, but they do work if you are looking to bet in the major markets.

They’ve got betting options on some of the biggest sports in the world, and their customer service is very good. You can even connect to customer service through a live chat function, which prevents you from needing to send an email and then having to wait days for a response.

Intro to sports betting

Sports betting (also called sports wagering) has been around for centuries. It involves putting money down on betting lines, which are specific wagers formulated by sportsbooks using algorithms and professional linemakers who study sports league data.

Sports betting is popular enough that it’s available for practically every professional sport you can imagine, including football, basketball, and baseball. Many people participate in sports betting to a casual extent to try to make a little money or to support their favorite teams.

Betting in any capacity follows a basic process:

  • Visit a retail sportsbook or download a sportsbook app
  • Examine the odds of a particular bet
  • Choose whether you want to place money down
  • Make your bet, then see how the match turns out

In general, it’s more profitable to bet on the underdog (the team not likely to win) than it is to bet on the favorite (the team projected to win). But there’s a lot of technical analysis and experience that can go into successful sports betting. As you gain experience, you’ll be more likely to make profitable wagers.

Sports betting odds explained

Sports betting odds are easy to grasp once you know what all the numbers mean.

Study a betting line carefully. You’ll notice that the line contains odds with “+” or “-“ signs attached in many cases. Any odds with positive values are assigned to underdog teams or to outcomes that are less than likely. On the flipside, odds with negative values are assigned to favorite teams or more likely outcomes.

The most basic type of odds is moneyline odds. Moneyline odds are always represented at values of greater than 100 are less than -100 since they tell you either:

  • How much money you need to wager to win $100
  • How much money a $100 wager will net you

For example, say that an underdog team had odds of +300. Wager $100 on that moneyline bet, and you’ll win $300. For another example, say that a favorite team has odds of -400. To win $100, you would need to wager $400. 

You’ll also need to understand the point spread. Oddsmakers will calculate the point spread for a given match or team. It’s a projection of how much a team will win or lose a game.

For instance, say that an underdog team has odds of +8.5. The odds are positive since the team is expected to lose. With point spread bets, oddsmakers are more generous with when conditions. If you were to put money down on this team, the underdog team would either need to win the game outright or lose by less than eight points for you to make money.

Point spread bets have tighter win conditions when wagering on the favorite team. Say that another team has odds of -7.5. That means the team has to win by more than 7.5 points for you to get a payout.

The last big odds types are “totals”. Totals odds are calculated as estimations of the total points likely to be scored by both teams in a given match. These are used for over/under bets, where you wager that both teams will combine score over or under the projected point total.

As you can see, there’s a lot to learn about odds when it comes to sports betting. But with a little practice and some experience, you’ll be able to read betting lines like a pro in no time.

Key sports betting terms to know

There are several key terms that you will need to know about before you can start making bets. If you can understand them, then you will be able know what they are when you encounter them. The terms might be the one thing that helps you make an accurate bet, and here are some of those terms.

  • Underdogs: Underdogs mean that the team or player doesn’t have a very good chance of winning a game or tournament. They are the underdogs, and not a lot of people are betting on them to win. This means that if the underdogs win, then the payout will be much higher than typical.
  • Favorite: The favorite to win is the opposite of the underdog, where they have a lot of potential to win a game or championship, and a lot of people place very high bets on the favorite to win the game.
  • Over/Under: Over/Under betting is whenever you choose a number and predict that the score for the final game will be over or under the total of the combined score of both teams. For example, the total is set by the oddsmakers at 35 for a football game. You can either bet that the final combined score of both teams will either be over or under 35. Once the game is over, you win based on your pick. This is also called Total betting as well.
  • Point Spread: This is one of the most common types of betting, and it is a bet on the margin victory of the game. A plus sign in front of a team means that they are the underdog, and a minus means they are the favorite. The favorite team needs to win by a touchdown or more, while the underdogs need to win the game, or lose by 1-6 points in football.
  • Sucker Bets: A sucker bet is a wager where the payout does not reflect the odds. Basically, you are betting a lot of money on something that is unlikely to happen, hence the name sucker bet. Only suckers fall for it, so don’t be one!
  • Parlays/Teasers: Parlay bets have you making two traditional bets in one for two different games, giving you a much higher payout. The only problem is that all of your bets have to win, if one loses, you win nothing. Teaser bets use events instead of teams.
  • Pari-Mutuel Betting: This is a form of betting where all multiple people make the same bet, and all of those bets are placed into one pool. The winners then divide the pool amongst themselves. For example, six people could bet on a football game and each put in $100. Three people bet on the Eagles to win, and three people bet on the Seahawks. When the Eagles win, the three winners divide the pot amongst themselves.
  • Betting Syndicates: A betting syndicate is a group of people who work to make a living through betting.
  • Betting Systems: A Betting system is a strategy used by gamblers to produce a profit. They analyze odds, team stats, and other numbers to give themselves an advantage.
  • Fading the Public: This basically means betting against the majority of the public, and attempting to make a profit by betting differently.
  • Prop Bets: Prop bets are bets that are placed on events that don’t have to do with the outcome of the game. Fore example, what color the gatorade will be that is dumped on the winning coach of the Super Bowl or what team will score the first points during the game.

How sportsbooks make money

With all of the betting that people make on sportsbooks, you might wonder how sportsbooks make money. Well, whenever someone makes a losing bet on a sportsbook, the betting company takes a percentage of the losing bet for themselves.

There’s no fee or commission if you win your wager, and the entirety of the money goes to you. However, if you lose your bet, some of your bet goes to the sportsbook. That portion is called the vigorish (vig).

Sportsbooks can make consistent profits in part because of how they calculate odds. Their employed oddsmakers and algorithms try to craft balanced wagers and draw equal amounts of betting action on both sides of a bet. In this way, they try to ensure that roughly the same amount of people win the bet as lose the bet, so they make a little profit even while paying out the winners.

Here’s an example:

  • A sportsbook takes a bet for an upcoming game between Team A and Team B
  • The teams are roughly equal, with +110 odds going to Team A and -100 odds going to Team B
  • The sportsbook collects $100,000 and betting cash from both sides of the public, who bet on the teams roughly equally
  • As a result, it doesn’t matter what the outcome of the game is. The sportsbook and collect the vig without any risk
  • Say that Team A wins. The sportsbook pays out half the public but takes a cut of the vig from the losers. Vice versa if Team B wins

Managing your sports betting bankroll

Your bankroll is the amount of money that you have set aside to be used in sports betting. It’s a good idea to have a set sports betting bankroll so you don’t use the money you need for everyday necessities and so you can track how much money you spend per sports betting session. In other words, it’s a great tool to help you control sports betting as a habit. 

Perhaps more importantly, tracking your sports betting bankroll will let you know if you are making a profit over a long time. You could win every single bet, and still end up losing money if your winnings are not the same as the amount that you bet. A good rule of thumb is to use 1 to 2 percent of your total bankroll on each bet, so a losing streak doesn’t affect your income too much.

Is it possible to be a profitable sports bettor?

Being a sports bettor can be profitable, but long-term success takes a lot of time and some good luck. Not everyone can be a rich sports bettor. If you want to make the most of your sports betting, you’ll need to spend the majority of your time making bets and analyzing the statistics of the games. It’s a huge time commitment.

What sports can you bet on in Illinois?

Illinois’ sports betting market is open to wagers for practically all popular US professional sports, such as baseball, basketball, hockey, football, and more. However, there are some regulations to keep in mind.

For example, the law doesn’t allow you to bet on collegiate games that involve local or native Illinois college teams. However, this is a little more relaxed compared to states that have banned collegiate betting outright. You can still place college sports wagers on any games that do not involve Illinois college teams.

Beginner sports betting mistakes to avoid

Even the most experienced sports bettors can still mess up from time to time. To prevent the most common mistakes, we’ve decided to present them to you.

  • Not checking your betting slip: The betting slip is the piece of paper or digital screen that contains your bet and your wager, and it’s also what you turn in once you win the bet. If the information on the paper is incorrect, then you can cost yourself some massive winnings. Always double-check your betting slip at the teller before you head off.
  • Forgetting to manage your bankroll: The bankroll is the most important part for you as a sports bettor. It is the clamp that stops you from spending all of your money on one ill-advised bet. Stick to the rules and restrictions of your self-imposed bankroll because they may prevent you from losing everything. 
  • Mis-reading stats: Making mistakes with stats, either by misreading them or using meaningless information to make your predictions is bad. You need to determine the usefulness of your stats before relying on them, plus make sure that they are backed up by real and actionable statistics. In general, if you find the same stats on several different websites, then you can trust it.
  • Chasing your losses: Sometimes you lose some money. It happens, and sometimes you can reduce your losses by making bets that you might not normally pursue. However, making some bad bets to reduce your losses can oftentimes get you deeper in the hole. It’s often a better idea to not chase your losses and wait for a clear head.
  • Having unrealistic expectations: While sports betting is fun, and you can make some good money, you don’t want to leap into it and think that you will make lots of cash right away. It will take a lot of time, some experience with bad bets, and learning before you can start making some real money.

For more mistakes to avoid, read our guide containing 15 betting mistakes to avoid.

Sports betting from your phone

One of the best things about current sports betting is the ability to do it from home. Rather than heading to a casino or a sports bar, you can sit on your couch and just start betting from your mobile device. Most sportsbooks have mobile apps or mobile websites that work on your phone, and you can use them easily.

Betting from your phone via  an Illinois sports betting app is the same as betting from your computer. In other words, you don’t need to make any changes.

Live betting in Illinois

Live betting in Illinois is whenever you can place bets on the game as it is going on. Live betting in Illinois is currently offered for most sportsbook operators. Live betting is unique in that it involves placing wagers that use frequently updated stats for live games. Odds for these wagers are usually updated at game breaks.

Advantages to betting online

Betting online provides several advantages for people, with the most important being convenience. You can make bets online from everywhere no matter what. This allows you to track your wagers as they progress throughout the day and allows you to enjoy betting action even if you can’t attend a sports game in person.

You will be able to see a lot of sports and options for different sports, and won’t just be stuck with the options that are at your nearest physical location. Plus, online options sometimes have better odds or unique betting pools, as in the case with DraftKings.

Finally, several payment options can be used online, including credit cards, third-party payment options, and even some forms of cryptocurrency. That way you have a bit more customizability with how you deposit and withdraw funds.

Get started with online sports betting in IL

Sports betting isn’t all that complex once you know what all the terms mean, and it can be a very good way to both make some money and also to support your favorite team. You haven’t fully enjoyed the sports match until you’ve watched a sports game that has some money on the line.

Since Illinois’s sports betting market is open to the public, we encourage you to give online sports betting in Illinois a try!