An areal view of sports betting in Illinois shows over $2.4 billion in handle, over $173 million in gaming revenue, and $27,861,990 in tax revenue. Simply put, all these numbers make IL the No. 4 sports betting market in the US.
But none of this means anything to the average Joe. People want to know about the actual betting experience.
To truly understand how the first year of legal sports betting in Illinois has gone, I had to reach out to the average Joes. And with the return of baseball and, more importantly, fans in the stands, I instinctively reached out to the drunk uncles of White Sox Twitter — The 108ers at @fromthe108.
Mobile sports betting in Illinois
Chris Ramos, better known as @chorizy, and Patrick Ramos, the smooth-talking @MrDelicious, have, in the past, described themselves as degenerate gamblers.
When we last spoke, it was mid-July. Mobile sports betting was on the verge of implementation, and not a single MLB game had been played.
Now, fans are being welcomed back to Guaranteed Rate Field. The 2021 MLB Season has kicked off its full 162 game slate and there are six mobile sportsbooks live in Illinois.
Keep in mind, everyone knows that casual bettors want two things: mobile sports betting and the ability to sign up for betting accounts remotely. Illinois has mobile betting and, because of the pandemic, enjoyed a long bout of remote registration even though it’s not typically allowed.
So, for these two Illinois residents, the question remains, has mobile sports betting been everything casual bettors dreamed of? Or, has it let them down in unforeseeable ways?
“I didn’t pay much attention to the bill, and I guess I missed that you couldn’t bet on Illinois teams,” Chris said during a zoom interview. “That has been the most disappointing thing for me.”
Part of the IL sports betting law prohibits wagering on in-state collegiate teams. The rule was largely noticeable during the NCAA tournament when No.1 seed Illinois matched up against No. 8 seed Loyola Chicago.
“I know people who were big Illinois fans, and they wanted to bet on that game, and they couldn’t,” said Chris.
“To me, it’s more of an annoyance. I want to bet on games that are going to be on my TV,” he said.
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Placing bets while in the stands
Betting on sports from the comfort of your home is one thing. But MLB betting from inside a packed 40,615 seat ballpark is another. Luckily, a packed stadium in Chicago is still months away. For now, each sporting venue in the Chicago-land area can operate at 20% capacity.
Regardless, the thought of grabbing a cold beer at the ballpark and placing a bet on Sox shortstop Tim Anderson to hit a home run has been on Patrick’s mind for quite some time.
Last year he said, there would be no better feeling than placing a bet in the stands. But a common fear is the inability to place bets due to cell phone reception issues. One way to solve the problem is by introducing 5G to sporting venues across the US.
“In the old days, you couldn’t do anything,” Patrick said. “I couldn’t even receive a text message.”
Patrick said there would have to be a service upgrade which would benefit several things during the 2021 season.
“[A service upgrade] benefits a lot of different things like food, drinks, tickets, and sports betting.”
Patrick is not wrong in his assessment. According to a press release from the White Sox, the entire stadium will be cashless to start, meaning cellular and internet service must run without interruptions.
Patrick said the last couple of seasons, 2020 excluded, the cellular service has improved inside the ballpark.
“But now, especially when real money is on the line, the Sox will figure things out,” he said.
And according to @chorizy, after Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals, it appears sports betting from inside the ballpark was running smoothly.
Hey @reporternickg was easy to bet from inside the park pic.twitter.com/30zkpZ0oKg
— Chorizy-E (@chorizy) April 11, 2021
To the unforeseeable future
I closed out my discussion with the Ramos brothers by asking if they thought local bookies and illegal offshore websites are a dying breed.
Patrick started by saving, no, local bookies and offshore betting sites aren’t going anywhere.
“When people think local bookies, they envision Tony Soprano and that’s not what it looks like,” Patrick said with a laugh. “They have technology and a website.”
Patrick predicted that local bookies would turn into affiliates, and “none of that sh!t” will go away.
“I hope local bo0kies are still working; they are neighborhood guys,” Chris said. “But offshore sportsbooks, [email protected]#K’em.”
However, with the way the US sports betting market is unfolding with inadequate laws in states like Illinois, illegal sportsbooks will find a place to thrive.
“I would think, how offshore sportsbooks keep hanging around is, you keep putting laws like the one in Illinois where you can’t bet on local teams,” Chris said. “Offshore betting will exist until [legal] sports betting is nationwide. Even one state ensures [offshore sportsbooks] can stay alive.”
The sports betting industry is still young. And much like the 2021 Chicago White Sox, there is still room to grow.