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How to bet on sports in Illinois: A beginners guide

Want to bet on sports in Illinois but don’t know where to start? On this page, you’ll find several tips and advice to help beginners get the most out of their sports betting experience.

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How can I bet on sports in Illinois?

Illinois sports bettors have two ways to wager on fixed odds sporting events. In one of the twelve legal brick-and-mortar sportsbooks or online through the 8 Illinois betting apps that are licensed and made available through Google Play and the Apple Store.

Online betting apps

Illinois sports bettors can wager from anywhere in the state at one of the seven online sportsbooks. Registering online requires new users to register for an account and verify the account with a valid state ID or passport and either a bank statement or utility bill matching the address on the ID.

That’s all that’s required to begin wagering online. All bettors must be physically present in the Prairie State to make a legal wager, but they do not need to be residents.

Retail sportsbooks

Prairie State bettors wishing to visit an establishment to place a wager can play at one of the twelve physical sportsbooks throughout the state. No account is necessary, but you may be asked for ID proof.

Otherwise, that’s all required to make a wager in Illinois. Most retail shops have large viewing areas to watch the game, and all winning tickets can be cashed directly at the sportsbook counters or casino cages. A state ID or passport must accompany winning wagers over $600; a 1099 Tax Form will be sent to the Illinois State Tax department in order to help you pay your gambling taxes.

What kinds of betting are not allowed in Illinois?

While most wagers on fixed odds sporting events are accepted, Illinois strictly prohibits wagering on events involving minors and betting online in contests involving in-state college teams.

  • Betting on minors: Illinois strictly prohibits Prairie State licensed sportsbook operators from accepting wagers on sporting events involving high school and junior individual sports such as tennis and golf.
  • Betting on in-stage college teams (online): Betting on college sports involving in-state teams is strictly prohibited online. Still, wagers are accepted at one of the eleven retail sportsbooks in the state. Additionally, prop bets aren’t available either online or at retail betting locations.

The different wagering types

Online sports wagering offers a wide variety of opportunities. The most important thing is to understand what type of bets to make and when to make them. Not all wagers are the same, nor are they bet the same.


The moneyline or straight-up (SU) is a wager on a specific team or player winning the match. The most important thing about the SU wager is the game's price. Bettors want to avoid betting on large favorites over -200 and underdogs of +200. The reason is the amount staked to win $100 isn’t always the same.

Let's say the Chicago Bears are a -400 favorite to win against the Detroit Lions. The bettor would need to stake $400 to win $100. That's too much of a risk for a minimal reward; however, the Bears -150 would require less chance to get the same reward.


The Over/Under or Total is a wager where the bettor decides how many points will be scored in a fixed odds sporting event. The bettor decides whether the number of points will go Over the oddsmaker's set number or Under the number on the board.

If the Bears-Lions total is 54.5 points, the bettor can choose Over the total or Under the total at the standard odds of -110. A bettor wagers $110 to win $100 on either side of the line, and the betting limits are usually lower for totals.

Spread Bets

The spread bet is a wager where the bettor decides how many points a team will either win or lose by in a fixed odds sporting event. The game odds are attached to a number of points the sportsbook sets for a team or player to win by, and the odds are usually -110 on either side of the line.

If the Bears are -3.0, they would have to win by four points for the bettor to win, and if the Bears win by three points, the wager is ruled a “push,” and the bettor only receives the original stake.

Middle bets

A middle bet is when a bettor places opposing bets on both sides of a game, creating a "middle" opportunity where the bettor cashes both bets. This type of wager doubles the profits if the final score lands in the middle of both bets and is an advanced bet beginning bettors probably shouldn’t make.

If the Bears open as -3.0 favorites and the number rises during the week to Lions +5.5, a bettor wagering on Chicago -3.0 then takes the Lions +5.5, and if the Bears win by 4-5 points, the bettor wins both wagers and doubles their profit.


Future bets depend on how a team or player performs. This long-term wager can be extremely profitable if a longshot lands and, depending on when the bet is made, can take months to collect.

Wagers on amount of games won or lost plus odds on teams winning their division, conference, or championship can be made at odds of up to +50000. Individual awards, such as a player winning a Most Valuable Player award, can fetch a handsome price if wagered during the preseason.

Prop bets

A prop or proposition bet is a wager made that doesn’t directly affect the outcome of a sporting event. Usually, these wagers are how an individual player will perform, but there are props for how teams perform during a specific point of the contest.

Props are generally an Over/Under wager where the oddsmaker sets a total number based on any number of statistical categories and is another way for an informed bettor to make a wager on a contest without worrying about the outcome of a team.


Parlay bets are wagers linking two or more teams on the same betting slip. If any bets lose, the player loses whatever was staked on the bet. Illinois sportsbooks offer a wide array of pre, live, Teasers, or Same Game parlay opportunities and offer special odds boosts to lure unsuspecting bettors into making a bad bet.

+600 odds aren’t very favorable towards the bettor, and making wagers with a 14% implied probability of winning isn’t a wise bet.

Live bets

Live bets are wagers made after a contest has officially begun. Illinois bettors can make the same wagers during the game as before the contest at slightly different odds. Live betting is also a great way to middle or even hedge a bet.

Still, the odds can change rapidly, and it's advisable to make a live wager during a timeout, commercial break, or at the end of a quarter or 1st half of any sporting event on offer.

How do odds work?

Sports betting odds are the measure of how much you can win vs. how much you bet, usually per $100 bet. Odds are included in all betting forms and every sportsbook board, whether moneylines, spreads, or totals. -110, for example, means a $110 wager for a $100 potential profit.

Sportsbooks make money off the vigorish (vig) or juice attached to a wager. To break even, a bettor must win 52.4% of their bets at -110, which is not as easy as some would lead one to believe. A beginning sports bettor should never pay over -110 for any side or Over/Under wager and no more than -200 on a moneyline bet.

How to choose an online betting operator

Illinois players have seven online betting operators to choose from, and each operator is in this business to make money. It’s imperative that a new bettor understands the various enticements and offers made to find the best one.

  • Bonuses and promotions - Bonuses come in all shapes and sizes. Usually, these come in deposit bonuses, sometimes equalling a new user's initial deposit, but the books also offer odds boosts, free bets, and betting credits. Sportsbooks aren’t generally in the habit of giving away money, and there are usually terms and conditions that must be met before withdrawing any winnings or bonuses. For example, Bettor A opens a new account and deposits $1000 into their account with a matching $1000 bonus. Bettor A would have to make wagers totaling anywhere from three to twenty times the initial deposit before the $1000 bonus is activated.
  • Odds - Sports bettors should always consider the price of the wager and the odds before making a bet. Shopping the various books is how successful sports bettors make their money, and these successful punters have several betting accounts, or “outs.” There is a big difference between -110 and -120, and a .5 point on either side of the line on sides and totals usually separates winning bettors from the rest of the pack.
  • Payment methods -The sportsbooks make it easy for gamblers to fund their accounts and offer several ways. Some online shops reward cryptocurrency users with faster withdrawal times, and most online bookies offer a wide range of funding options. Retail betting establishments only accept cash, but each brick-and-mortar shop has several ATMs available. Ultimately, the final decision should be based on the personal preference of the bettor.
  • Amount of bet types they offer - Each of the retail and online Illinois betting operators offers the standard side, total, and moneyline wagers as well as prop bets, parlays, and live bets. These books differ in what a maximum bet or limit is and what sports permit parlays, and which ones don’t. Parlays are the sportsbooks' largest source of revenue, but some books won’t allow tennis parlays, while others might, and shopping for the books with the most variety is always your best bet.
  • Amount of sports they cover - Illinois betting operators offer fixed odds wagers on every major USA sporting event. Some sites will offer odds on events like Jai Alai and table tennis, while others refuse to offer these sports. Illinois sportsbook operators are prohibited from wagering on the Academy Awards and the US Presidential election. Still, they offer a wide range of future odds for all the major US sports and popular international sports like racing and soccer.

Tips when betting on sports in Illinois

There are many ways Illinois sports bettors can wager successfully. Still, it's also important to understand that betting operators are after your money, and there are a few tips to make sports betting a more enjoyable experience.

Why are your sports betting?

Some bet to make the game more enjoyable, while others wager to make a profit. Once you figure out why then you should come up with a plan.

Factor in how much time one can spend researching and seeking “outs,” how much money one can comfortably lose, and set a daily schedule.

Bankroll management

Managing the bankroll requires discipline, and there isn’t a successful sports bettor that doesn’t have some system. Beginning bettors would be best served by wagering 1% of their bankroll amount per event.

Example: A beginning bettor with a $1000 bankroll would wager $10 per moneyline bet and should only increase the stake once a bettor reached a bankroll of $1250 or a 25% increase. This system isn’t sexy, but it will keep a bettor from going broke during the inevitable losing streak.

Avoid Parlays

As previously stated, parlays have larger payouts but lower odds of winning, and it's a good idea for newbies to avoid these high-risk bets with slim odds.

You’ll also want to say no to teaser bets, SGP, and any predetermined SGP parlays. It's difficult to win one bet some days, let alone three, and parlays are setting your money on fire.

Understand the terms of bonuses

Illinois sportsbook promo codes are enticing, but the books aren’t going to hand over $1000 without the new user making a wager.

All betting operators require a “rollover of playthrough” rate anywhere from three to twenty times the initial deposit. A new bettor wagering $10 per contest will have to make 300 bets before the bonus of $1000 can be withdrawn.

Don’t gamble while intoxicated

They don't call alcohol the smart juice for nothing, and gambling while under the influence of alcohol or anything else that impairs one's judgment is a terrible idea.

Stories beginning with “one night I was drunk” usually don’t end well, and we don’t want your first betting experience to go awry by losing 80% of the bankroll by making a silly bet while intoxicated.

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Is sports betting the most popular type of gambling in Illinois?

No, sports betting isn’t the most popular type of gambling in Illinois. According to reports from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, video gaming is No.1 in Illinois, followed by sports betting, with retail casino gambling coming in 3rd.

Should I pay someone for picks on social media?

No, you should not pay someone for picks on social media. Most touts are losing sports bettors and should be avoided, as any success a tout may have rarely offsets the price of the picks.

Do I need to be a sports expert to win at sports betting?

No, you do not need to be a sports expert to win at sports betting. Most pro bettors wouldn’t be able to name five players on any given team-they bet on the odds or price with the highest implied probability as opposed to any one team.

How much should my beginning bankroll be?

Your bankroll needs to be whatever you can comfortably afford to lose, and begin with that amount. Never fund a betting bankroll with money from a loan, and don’t attempt to use sports betting to get out of debt.