Change is coming to the Illinois sports betting industry, but it’s not the change that some were hoping to see. Sports bettors will soon be able to bet on in-state college teams, but only at the retail sportsbooks in the state.
Senate Bill 521 included an amendment for betting on in-state college teams, and that bill was passed by the House earlier this week. This amendment has brought about plenty of debate in recent weeks, but lawmakers ultimately wanted to make a change.
Retail sportsbooks can now offer betting on games featuring the in-state college teams, but online sportsbooks cannot list these games. Online betting makes up more than 90 percent of all wagering in Illinois, and this won’t be a major change for most bettors.
Another provision in the amendment states that only pre-game wagers on the final outcome can be offered. This means that sportsbooks cannot offer prop or live betting options for these games.
Athletic Directors Fight Back
Lawmakers in Illinois wanted to include this form of betting in the original sports betting legislation, but they faced opposition from athletic directors and leaders of universities. University of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman was the biggest voice against this provision, but ultimately lawmakers chose to go another direction.
If this bill is signed into law, it would go into effect on July 1, 2021, and would run on a two-year trial basis. In 2023, lawmakers could vote to keep the amendment in place or make changes of it to improve the industry.
Didn’t Affect March Betting
Bettors in the state of Illinois wished this new amendment was passed prior to the 2021 NCAA Tournament as the Illinois Fighting Illini were one of the top teams in the country. Illinois eventually lost to Loyola-Chicago in a game that was not offered at any of the sportsbooks in the state.
Despite not being able to bet on the in-state college teams, March Madness still produced some impressive sports betting numbers for the state. The March handle was $633.6 million, smashing the previous record that was set in January 2021.
According to the numbers from the Illinois Gaming Board, March Madness provided more betting in Illinois than nearly every other state in the US.
No Change to Registration Process
Lawmakers did discuss making changes to the sports betting registration process, but language was not included in the final bill. This could limit the potential growth of the Illinois sports betting industry, at least until January 1, 2022.
Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an Executive Order in June 2020 that allowed for remote registration at sportsbooks in Illinois. This prompted online sportsbooks to launch quicker than expected, and it allowed Illinois to become one of the top markets in the US.
Pritzker let that order expire in April, and Illinois is now just one of two states that require in-person registration. The April numbers have not yet been announced, but it is expected to be significantly lower as bettors are limited in their signup capabilities.