Trial run until July 1, 2023

Illinois college teams betting bill heads to governor's desk

Loyola Ramblers basketball college team.
2021-10-29
United States
Reading time 2:40 min
The amendment bill to eliminate ban on college sports bets passed both chambers on Thursday. Bettors will only be able to place in-person wagers exclusively on the outcome of collegiate level games, but not on individual performances. In-state collegiate betting would be a “pilot program” set for repeal on July 1, 2023, unless the General Assembly extends it. The bill also allows online registration for sportsbooks as of March 5, 2022.

Illinois bettors could soon be able to place their wagers on college sports teams under a measure passed on Thursday by lawmakers in Springfield. 

The bill, which is headed to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk for final approval, would eliminate a ban on wagers on in-state college teams, a prohibition that has left millions in potential revenue off the table, according to sponsoring legislators. 

Senator Bill Cunningham's proposed Senate Amendment 2 to House Bill 3136 , which passed the state Senate 44-12 and the House 100-11, establishes that wagers on local college teams will only be allowed to be placed in person at a casino, and limits bets on the outcomes of games. Individual performances can not be bet on. The in-state ban would be reinstated in two years unless lawmakers pass another bill allowing it. 

The ban to this sort of wagering was a key concession in negotiations for the 2019 gambling expansion that introduced legal sports betting to the state, as a means of appeasing officials at home universities who have opposed college wagering of any sort. 

“By allowing people in our state to bet on our own student-athletes, we’re only opening the door and inviting people to have those intense, threatening, abusive interactions”  said University of Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman.

Sponsor State Rep. Mike Zalewski has said the new provisions meet some of Whitman’s concerns halfway, while allowing the state to capitalize on betting dollars that are crossing the borders to Indiana and Iowa. Illinois bettors have already wagered more than $947 million on non-Illinois college contests since the legitimate industry launched in March 2020.

“We’ve got one of the best sports betting markets in the country, and this is going to make it even more mature,” Zalewski said after the bill passed. “We were not preventing it from happening. We may as well take advantage of the market. I think we’ve been judicious.”

The bill includes several other key gaming provisions such as: 

  • Allowing Wintrust Arena to open a sportsbook
  • Allowing residents to sign up for sports betting accounts from their phones or computers beginning March 5, instead of doing so in person at a casino as required under the 2019 law. 
  • Local governments would not be able to impose additional taxes on video gaming terminals. Municipalities that have already passed “push taxes” will be allowed to keep collecting them, whereas other towns will not be able to create such taxes after November 1. 

The legislation revives an effort that died during the spring legislative session when a similar bill passed in the House but was not called in the Senate.

In addition, the bill allows online registration for sports betting with books. When the bill was first ushered through in 2019, there was an 18-month hold for online operators like DraftKings and FanDuel to create an online presence in Illinois, giving BetRivers casino in Chicago and other brick-and-mortar locations around the state the ability to be first to market.

However, when the pandemic hit, Governor JB Pritzker halted this, allowing all sportsbooks to register people online. But this measure ended months ago, forcing everyone who was not already registered with a sports betting account to register in person at a physical location. With this legislation, sportsbooks can once again begin online registration applications on March 5, 2022.

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