Illinois sports betting is almost a done deal. The jurisdiction made a giant stride towards realizing a legal market after legislators voted to pass a comprehensive gambling expansion bill just before the end of the 2019 legislative session.

The process of legalizing sports betting in Illinois has been an uphill task. The journey was marred by political bickering and heated debates, and at some points, it seemed an impossible feat.

However, last-minute efforts from Rep. Bob Rita and an understanding between Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot saw the state pass a landmark gambling bill that will bring in-person and mobile sports betting to Illinois.

The bill, SB 690, is currently on the Governor’s desk and all that is remaining is his signature to make it law.

The contents of the bill

SB 690 seeks to expand the state’s legal gambling market through the addition of six new casinos with one mega-casino slated to open in Chicago.

The bill also paves the way for casinos and race tracks to apply for mobile and in-person sports betting licenses.

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The cost of applying for a license will be 5% of the property’s gross gaming revenue in the previous year up to $10 million. Sports betting operators will also be required to remit 15% of their monthly income to the Illinois Gaming Board in taxes.

Large sporting venues with a seating capacity of more than 17,000 will also be eligible to apply for sports wagering licenses, but they will only be allowed to offer online wagering services to customers located within a five-block radius. Iconic venues such as the Chicago’s Wrigley Field, United Center, Soldier Field, and Guarantee Rate Field qualify to apply for a license under this provision.

SB 690 will also allow the Illinois Gaming Board to license up to 5,000 lottery-style sports betting kiosks across the precinct. Half of these kiosks will be licensed during the first year as part of a pilot program, with 2,500 more venues getting cleared for wagering operations in the following year.

Online-Only Operators To Enter Market Later

Casinos and other venues will get an 18-month head start over online-only operators like DraftKings and FanDuel, thanks to a bad-actor clause in the Illinois sports bill. The provision was included in the bill as a way of penalizing the two fantasy and sports betting giants for operating DFS in the precinct against the law of the state.

The bad-actor language has been one of the most debated issues in the run-up to the legalization of sports betting in Illinois.

In May, FanDuel and Draftkings launched a massive ad campaign against Rivers Des Plaines Casino, which was among the proponents of the penalty. According to the two firms, Rivers Casino wanted to lock them out of the market in unfair competition.

However, the proposal was unanimously adopted by legislators, and the two companies will not be able to apply for licenses until an 18-month regulatory waiting period elapses.

The license fee for online-only platforms has been set at $20 million.

What else is in the bill?

Fortunately for operators eyeing the legal Illinois market, SB 690 does not include an integrity fee. However, professional and college sports leagues will have some influence on the types of bets that can be placed within the jurisdiction.

The bill also bans wagers on sporting events involving Illinois-based colleges. In addition, operators will have to work with the sports leagues to get official data for in-play and prop bets.

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