For the second straight year, March Madness betting is legal in Illinois. In 2021, Illinoisans bet around $200 million total on the NCAA Tournament.
Sounds straightforward enough, right? But in Illinois, it’s rarely that simple. The rules change a lot, and to some folks, they don’t make much sense.
We’re here to give a quick refresher on what is and what isn’t allowed when betting on March Madness in Illinois.
You can’t bet on Illinois teams online
This rule has not changed from last year. So, you won’t see game lines available for Illinois, Loyola Chicago … Northwestern? (If we’re feeling spicy) on your IL mobile sports betting apps during this year’s dance.
What is different, however, is that you can now bet on these teams in person at retail sportsbooks. With that said, live betting and props aren’t allowed.
HB 3136, which was passed in the fall, legalized limited betting on Illinois college teams.
The provision expires in the summer of 2023, and lawmakers will have to determine what to do then.
You can bet on every non-Illinois team online
From New York to California to every state in between (except Illinois), people can legally bet on every March Madness team online.
So if Indiana is facing Notre Dame, you’ll see markets for that on your sports betting apps, even though it’s just one state over.
You won’t have to go to a casino to register for an account!
After March 5, online registration will return to Illinois. This means people will no longer have to go to a retail sportsbook in order to create an account.
Online registration was also available for last year’s tournament, and it was part of the reason March Madness betting numbers were so robust. But in early April, Gov. JB Pritzker brought back in-person registration. We’ve had it ever since.
HB 3136 also stipulated the March 5 permanent end date for in-person registration, meaning Illinoisans will soon have a much easier way to create sports betting accounts.
We should have at least one new sportsbook
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) approved BetMGM Sportsbook for a sports betting license last month. BetMGM should launch in time for March Madness.
It’s also possible that we’ll have a few new sportsbooks besides BetMGM. There are three anonymous online-only sports betting license applicants, and the IGB could hand out approvals just before the tournament. The situation is fluid, and it’s even possible that certain sportsbooks will launch during or after the first weekend.
Bally Bet, Unibet, theScore Bet, WynnBet, Golden Nugget and Fox Bet are some operators to watch, but don’t be surprised to see a new sportsbook come out of left field.
Promotional offers should increase
With online registration returning for the first time in almost a year and at least one new sportsbook launching, there will be an uptick in bonuses from sportsbooks.
Offers are typically more advantageous for new users, but the market leaders should also be incentivized to retain customers with more competition entering the state.
It will be especially interesting to see what Barstool and Caesars by William Hill do. Barstool only had three weeks to register users remotely last year, while Caesars has ramped up its sports betting spending elsewhere. It was in transition mode the last time Illinois had online sign-up capability.