Illinois Gaming Bans Russian Sports Betting

A general view of Soldier Field with the Chicago skyline. Quinn Harris/Getty Images/AFP

The reverberating effects from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have spawned boycotts of everything from Russian oil to Russian vodka. And now the latest casualty is the ban on betting on Russian sports by the Illinois Gaming Board. 

Contrary to Public Policy 

Although there isn’t much of a call for betting on Russian sports, those online sportsbooks operating in Illinois such as BetMGM Illinois, Caesars Sportsbook Illinois, FanDuel Illinois Sportsbook, and BetRivers Illinois Sportsbook, to name but a few, will no longer be hanging numbers on Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, or Russian anything for that matter. 

Marcus Fruchter, the Illinois Gaming Board Administrator, said last week that no online sportsbook operating within the Prairie State will be allowed to offer odds or lines of any kind on Russian sports because it is “contrary to public policy”. This ban on “any sports event, league or competition” in Russia also extends to its ally, Belarus.  

“I have determined that wagering in Illinois on such sports poses a significant likelihood of serious risks to the integrity of the Illinois sports wagering industry,” Fruchter said during a virtual Gaming Board meeting. “We hope that peace will soon prevail.” 

Remote Sign-Ups Now Allowed 

Illinois had been one of the few states that forced its customers to sign up for their online sportsbook accounts in person at the closest land-based casino. Certainly, it was a boon for the casinos as it brought foot traffic to their venues but it was also a major inconvenience for the vast majority who simply wanted a sportsbook account and not an unnecessary trip to the casino. 

But when the global pandemic struck, that condition was waived as the casinos which housed the sportsbooks were shut down due to government mandates. This worked out well for the many who were forced to stay inside, an easy sign-up from the comfort of their own home rather than traveling however far just to sign a few sheets of paper. 

And while the wisdom of maintaining this policy should have been evident, it was ultimately rescinded and the in-person policy was reinstated 10 months later. In April of 2021, those who wanted an online betting account in Illinois now had to schlep back to the sportsbooks to register for their online accounts.  

However, cooler heads prevailed and as of March 5th, 2021 registering for online sportsbook accounts will no longer require a trip to a local sportsbook.  

Joe Boozell, lead analyst for gaming industry website PlayIllinois.com., said, “People are not willing to drive to a casino or retail sportsbook, in order to sign up for a sports betting account. This change will allow Illinois to reach its full potential as a sports betting state.” 

And it is not surprising that Johnny Avello, director of sportsbook operations for DraftKings, concurred wholeheartedly with Boozell when he issued a statement reading, “Mobile registration is an important factor for the success of legalized sports betting in Illinois. We are thrilled that the legislature has lifted the artificial barrier of in-person registration and is now allowing customers to register their DraftKings Sportsbook accounts remotely.” 

Last year, Illinois took in a whopping $7 billion in sports betting revenue with $525 million as the adjusted gross income and the state seeing over $78 million of that money pour into its tax coffers.