Getting legal sports betting into Illinois has been anything but a fluid process. Over the past 18 months state lawmakers have struggled to come to a final resolution with the “on-again-off-again” in-person registration requirement. But as things stand, Illinois sports bettors will be able to start registering online again on March 5th. Many view this as the final reopening of sports betting in Illinois.

There is more welcome news for Illinois sports betting. Leading online sports betting operator BetMGM is scheduled to launch its mobile app to Illinois bettors when mobile registration returns for good. Illinois was a curious gap in BetMGM’s iGaming expansion that is now set to be filled within weeks.

BetMGM Illinois Delays

Back in September of 2020, BetMGM joined other prominent US online bookmakers like DraftKings and Caesars Sportsbook in the submission of license applications. While other online sports betting operators received their approvals in short order, there were issues that caused delays for both BetMGM and Unibet.

Aside from having to deal with red tape and registration issues, management at BetMGM questioned the wisdom of opening up during a time when bettors were required to open accounts in person. It would seem that BetMGM management felt the organization would be at a major marketing disadvantage under such an environment. The “in-person” policy has been in effect since April of 2021 under the authority of Gov. JB Pritzker.

Whether or not the timing of BetMGM’s launch was always planned for this March 5th date is uncertain. What is clear is BetMGM bring one of the highest rated mobile betting apps to the state’s enthusiastic sports bettors. By doing so, they will officially become the seventh online operator providing sports betting services in the state. They join DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, BetRivers (Rush Street Interactive), Barstool Sportsbook, and Caesars Sportsbook.

March Madness Betting

The March 5th starting date carries some significance for BetMGM. By opening their mobile betting app by that date, they will hope to take advantage of the betting action that comes each year from the NCAA’s March Madness college basketball tournament. In fact, they will be positioned to accept wagers by the start of the high profile NCAA Conference Tournaments.

Along with March Madness, BetMGM will also be in line to benefit from the state of Illinois’ enthusiasm for their beloved Chicago Bulls in the NBA. At the time of writing, the Bulls have the joint best record (38-21) in the Eastern Conference. If they maintain this form they are headed for an elite seeding in the NBA playoffs.

Surprisingly Strong Chicago Bulls

To say the Bulls have surprised both the league and sports bettors would be an understatement. At the start of the 2021-2022 season, they were +8000 to win the NBA title. They now stand at around +2200, depending on the specific sportsbook.

And if interest in the Bulls isn’t enough to draw new sports bettors to BetMGM, there is still hope that the MLB regular season will start at the end of March as scheduled. If and when the league opens, Illinois mobile operators are sure to benefit from the excitement surrounding the prospects of the Chicago Cubs on the North Side and the White Sox on the South Side.

Currently, the Cubs are +10100 to win the World Series with BetMGM Indiana. That big number is in anticipation of the Cubs entering rebuild mode over the next couple of years. They could surprise.

The story is very different on the South Side of Chicago where the White Sox are +1200 to win the Series and +650 to win the American League Pennant. According to bookmakers and sports bettors, the Sox are certainly among the top two or three teams in all of MLB.

Looking for a Big Open

After the long wait for license approval, management at BetMGM Illinois will be looking for a big opening month. With the second biggest sports event of the year in March Madness taking place there is reason for optimism. Add to that the local support for its professional teams and they will likely get that big opening month. It also won’t hurt if the Illinois Fighting Illini men’s team makes some noise in the Big Ten Conference tournament.

Currently, the Illini are leading the Big Ten with a record of 10-2, 17-5 overall. That’s good enough for an AP Coach’s Poll ranking of #18. Winning the Big Ten would of course lead to a very nice seeding heading into the Big Dance.

After BetMGM’s big March open in Illinois, Unibet hope to be next in line. Meanwhile, Bally Bet, theScore Bet, Golden Nugget, and WynnBET are all waiting in the wings for their own licenses. The story of Illinois online sports betting is really only just beginning.