America’s fifth most populous state is about to have two major new industries, as the Illinois state senate voted to legalize sports betting and recreational marijuana over the weekend. We’ll cover the latter in another article. For now, let’s focus on the sports betting industry.
Place Your Bets
Illinois is famous for a lot of great sports. They’ve got “the Friendly Confines” of Wrigley Field. University of Illinois sports. Heck, you can even watch the Chicago Bulls lose there, if you’re into that sort of thing. But until this weekend, it wasn’t legal to bet on any of that.
Now, thanks to the heavily democratic state legislature, you can. The state became just the 13th to pass sports betting legislation, but already the fifth this year.
In a nod to its established local businesses, online providers like FanDuel and DraftKings will have to wait a year and a half to move into the state. But brick-and-mortar establishments like casinos and racetracks can begin mobile and in-person betting right away.
While it is good to see sports betting bills passed, excluding DraftKings and FanDuel is like passing a ride sharing bill that excludes Uber and Lyft. Very disappointing that Illinois customers will not have the best options available to them for 18 months.
— Jason Robins (@JasonDRobins) June 2, 2019
That move may not be popular with everyone, but it is a smart way to build interest in local sports books first. There may be some competition on Illinois’ borders, as both Indiana to the East and Iowa to the West have also legalized betting. Customers who are unhappy with their home state’s prohibitions against mobile companies could look for that option elsewhere.
Sports betting is a serious profit opportunity for states that choose to legalize it. New Jersey is expected to make nearly $3 billion from the industry in its first year of legal betting. But, in what looks like bad news for Illinois, 75 percent of that income was on mobile.
Illinois has almost four million more people than New Jersey, but by excluding DraftKings, FanDuel, and their peers, it is limiting their ceiling substantially.
Still, legal sports betting is a step in the right direction as far as we’re concerned. If you live in Illinois, congratulations. If you live in one of the 34 states where it isn’t yet legal, bide your time. It’s coming, and for many, it should be coming soon.