Earlier this month, Indiana became the 13th state to allow sports betting, beating Illinois to the punch after it also approved sports betting earlier this year.
The state gaming board is still setting rules and seeking public input on proposed rules until the end of the month.
Illinois Gaming Board administrator Marcus D. Fruchter said there’s no timetable for when the rules will be finalized and licenses will be issued.
“We are working on a process to ethically and expeditiously implement sports betting,” he said. “We’re focused on a process that is appropriate for Illinois and making sure that we do things in a transparent, independent, deliberate and ethical manner.”
In Indiana, residents can now bet at casinos on sports ranging from college football and the NFL to cricket and sailing.
Indiana will allow online sports betting, but that hasn’t started yet.
At the French Lick Casino in Indiana, sportsbook supervisor Sara Scott said sports betting has been popular for the few days it’s been around.
“It’s gone wonderful,” she said. “It seems to me the favorite is football — collegiate and NFL. We had some baseball betting. People seem to be pretty excited about it.”
French Lick hasn’t run into any significant issues, Scott said, though on the first day, people were having trouble betting on an Indiana University game — a problem that got fixed within an hour.
She said it’s too early to tell how big sports betting will be as a percentage of the casino’s revenue.
But she said, “A lot of people are saying that they’re really excited.”
When sports betting comes to Illinois, there will be some differences from Indiana.
Most significantly, betting won’t be allowed on college sports, something University of Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman successfully lobbied to restrict.
But like Indiana, sports betting will come first to casinos, some large sports venues mostly near Chicago such as Wrigley and Soldier fields, and at terminals in 2,500 places where lottery tickets are sold across the state.
Once the sports betting rules are finalized and licenses are issued, bettors will be able to gamble on sports with mobile apps, but they’ll have to register first in person at a casino, and for the first 18 months, the mobile apps will all be associated with a casino.
“People have to go to a casino, set up an account and register,” said Ivan Fernandez, executive director of the Illinois Gaming Machines Operators Association.
His organization lobbied for a proposal to allow restaurants and bars to have sports betting terminals and geo-fenced mobile gambling that would limit sports betting to people physically at the restaurant or bar.
The owner of the Champaign bar Pia’s, Eric Meyer, lobbied for this proposal with the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, testifying at some hearings about the issue.
“We saw that not as a high-profit opportunity in terms of a percentage from gaming revenue, but rather an opportunity to put more customers in our seats and for them to stay a little longer in our establishments,” he said. “They might eat more and drink more.”
With so many bars and restaurants already licensed through the Illinois Gaming Board for video gambling terminals, he thought it would be a quicker way for Illinois to add sports betting.
“Our state’s way behind. Indiana’s already up and live and got theirs introduced by the start of the NFL season,” Meyer said.
After a Supreme Court decision last year allowed states to legalize sports betting, several states were quick to pass laws doing so.
But the Legislature rejected sports betting licenses for bars and restaurants, though Meyer and Fernandez remain hopeful that could be added in the future.
And they weren’t completely shut out of the gambling expansion bill that was approved.
The new law lets establishments add an extra video gambling terminal, increasing the limit from five to six; increases the maximum wager from $2 to $4; increases the maximum cash award from $500 to $1,199; and allows jackpots of up to $10,000.
Those changes are expected to increase video gambling revenue by more than 15 percent, Meyer said.
Since the first video gambling terminals were installed in fiscal 2013, state revenue from them has increased from $24 million to $395 million.
In comparison, sports betting is expected to generate $58 million to $102 million annually in revenue for the state, between the license fees and a 15 percent tax on wagering receipts.
That would make up between 4 and 8 percent of the gambling revenue the state collected in recent years, according to the bipartisan state Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability’s report released last week.