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Illinois sportsbooks told to keep Super Bowl action on the field — not on whether ads will feature puppies or Betty White

Unlike in some other states, Illinois bettors will have to stick to on-field action — not whether a winning player will declare he’s going to Disney World, or if a halftime performer will suffer a wardrobe malfunction.

Betty White appears in one of the most famous Super Bowl TV commercials, the Snickers spot that aired in 2010.
Betty White appears in one of the most famous Super Bowl TV commercials, the Snickers spot that aired in 2010.
Sun-Times Media

Illinois gamblers now have their first chance ever to lay down legal bets on the Super Bowl, but forget about wagering on the length of the national anthem or what commercial is coming up next.

Unlike in some other states — and on plenty of illegal offshore sportsbooks — Illinois bettors will have to stick to on-field action.

Illinois Gaming Board administrator Marcus Fruchter said at a meeting last week his agency will only allow bets on “activity directly within the control or jurisdiction of the NFL and/or individuals subject to the NFL integrity policy.”

Fruchter acknowledged such novelty prop bets — such as whether a winning player will declare he’s going to Disney World, or if a halftime performer will suffer a wardrobe malfunction — are good for “the growth and success” of the industry.

But he said it’s “imperative that sports wagering be conducted with the highest standards of integrity, and without any appearance or possibility of potential impropriety.”

The regulatory buzz-kill comes as the latest Gaming Board figures showed another record-breaking month in November for the state’s eight sportsbooks. Sports betting has been legal in Illinois for less than a year, but gamblers already have wagered almost $1.4 billion on football, soccer and other contests.

The statewide handle, or amount of money wagered, topped $449 million, a slight increase from the $435 million bettors plunked down in October.

Gamblers lost more than $41 million on those November bets, generating almost $7 million in tax revenue.

The two-month-old figures released on Monday are the latest available due to the amount of time the sportsbooks have to report their revenue under Illinois law.

BetRivers Sportsbook, the first brick-and-mortar sportsbook approved by the Illinois Gaming Board, opens to the public at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines last March.
BetRivers Sportsbook, the first brick-and-mortar sportsbook approved by the Illinois Gaming Board, opens to the public at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines last March.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The house has come out on top by a grand total of almost $102 million since the state’s first wager was placed last March, creating about $16 million in taxes.

Illinois’ betting market is now the fourth largest in the nation behind New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania, but it’s seen the fastest growth — and it probably wouldn’t have happened if not for the coronavirus pandemic.

The state’s sports betting law was written to give casinos with physical sportsbooks an 18-month head start on online-only betting companies such as DraftKings and FanDuel, which operated in a legal gray area for several years.

But with COVID-19 shutting down casinos for several months, Gov. J.B. Pritzker nixed a rule requiring gamblers to register to bet in person at a casino, instead letting gamblers sign up from their smartphones.

Now the online giants are on top, with DraftKings — through a partnership with the downstate Casino Queen — drawing the highest November handle ($166 million) of the state’s sportsbooks. Rivers Casino in Des Plaines trailed with $133 million in bets.

Nearly 97% of wagers were placed online in November. Football was the most popular sport to bet on, drawing $253 million in handle — more than five times the next sport (soccer).