Chicagoans have bet on sports for generations before it was legalized in Illinois. Here’s a how-to guide for casual fans looking to get in on the action.
With Illinois’ first legal sportsbook opening Monday and just days to go before others start sprouting up across Illinois, it’s time for casual fans interested in indulging in the newly legal industry to hit the books.
If you never found a friendly neighborhood bookie, if you were never tempted to log on to equally illegal off-shore online sportsbooks, or if you weren’t drawn across the border to bet in Indiana when the legal Hoosier industry went live last fall, you still might be intrigued at the prospect of putting down some money on the White Sox — but you might not know exactly how.
When sports betting was legalized with Gov. J.B. Pritkzer’s signature last summer, it meant casinos, racetracks and even sports stadiums would be able to lay odds on professional games. Eventually you’ll be able to place bets on your cellphone as state regulators continue to lay the procedural framework for the industry.
Rivers Casino Des Plaines announced late last week that it plans to go live on Monday with an opening ceremony featuring billionaire Rush Street Gaming Chairman Neil Bluhm and Hockey Hall of Famer Eddie Olczyk.
The state’s first legal sports wager is to be placed at noon.
“The BetRivers Sportsbook will take March Madness out of the office pool and into an exciting, elevated live sports wagering experience,” Rivers general manager Corey Wise said in a statement.
And a handful of other casinos and a racetrack are all awaiting Illinois Gaming Board approval to launch their sportsbooks. Argosy Casino Alton is also planning to do so in time for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that tips off March 17.
Until mobile betting goes live, which could take months, potential gamblers will have to physically walk in to one of those establishments, head to the sports betting counter and lay down their cash.
But that wall of sportsbook TVs beaming in endlessly winding tickers of point totals and injury updates can be a daunting scene for the weekend warrior who doesn’t know a moneyline from a spread.
So here’s a primer if you want to jump out of the office pool and into the deeper water.
Rivers sportsbook supervisor Ross Sansone outlined four basic types of bets that rookie sports gamblers can make to get in on the early action.
Moneyline: Betting on the moneyline is simply picking a winner, with your potential payout determined by the odds set by the sportsbook. The favored team is marked with a minus sign, and the underdog a plus sign. For example, suppose the Bears are listed as +120 underdogs against the Packers, and those hated Cheeseheads are favored to win at -120. That means if you bet $100 on the Bears and they win, you take home $120 on top of your bet, for a total payout of $220. Alternately, you’d have to bet $120 on the Packers to win $100 and take home the same amount. The moneyline is based on a $100 bet, but you can bet as much or as little as you like. A winning $5 on the Bears at +120 will win $6, for a total payout of $11.
Point spread: Betting the point spread is betting how much one team will win by or lose to another, as opposed to just picking a winner. For example, if the Bears are 8.5-point favorites (-8.5) over the underdog Packers (+8.5), and you pick the Bears, they have to win by at least nine points for you to win the bet. If you pick the Packers on the point spread here, they can lose by up to eight points and you’ll still walk away a winner.
Over/under: An over/under or totals bet is based on how many points are scored by both teams in a single game. Say the over-under in the Bears-Packers game is set at 37.5; that’s good news if you bet the over and the final score is 24-17.
Parlay: Linking two or more bets together in a parlay can mean a big-time payouts, but the odds are stacked against the gambler since a single loss wipes out the whole bet. March Madness presents a potential parlay bonanza, for example, if you bet on and ace all your first-round picks in the hoops tourney. Just don’t plan betting on the University of Illinois — in-state collegiate athletics are off-limits under the law.
As with any potentially addictive gambling activity, experts recommend sports bettors set a firm, reasonable limit on how much they’re willing to lose. Illinois’ impending sports betting launch coincides with national Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
It also happens to fall in the heart of tax season, and yes, Uncle Sam gets a cut of the action. All winnings are subject to state and federal income taxes, and sportsbooks are automatically required to report winnings of $600 or more to the IRS.