Round 1 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tips off today, and Illinois has two schools in the field of 64 teams. Best of all, you can bet on them an a retail Illinois sportsbook.
Both men’s teams reside in the West Region. Here’s a look at their opponents and the expected start time for each matchup:
- No. 9 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. #8 Arkansas Razorbacks – 4:30 p.m. CST on March 16
- No. 7 Northwestern Wildcats vs. #10 Boise State Broncos – 6:35 p.m. CST on March 16
With both schools residing in the same region of the March Madness bracket, there’s a chance we’ll see an Illinois vs. Northwestern matchup in the Elite Eight.
You could bet on that (hypothetical) game, plus the rest of the Fighting Illini and Wildcats games at a licensed Illinois sports betting location. But to do so, it’s going to take some effort.
How to bet on Illinois and Northwestern in the NCAA Tournament
Illinois has strict regulations against online sportsbooks offering action on all in-state college athletic events. That means you can’t wager on the Fighting Illini or Wildcats — or any college in Illinois — from your phone.
But if you go in person to a retail sportsbook, you can wager on the schools.
When sports betting launched in Illinois in March 2020, no wagering of any kind was allowed on in-state universities. It wasn’t until March 2021 that the Illinois General Assembly voted to allow retail sportsbooks to take action on Illinois schools.
However, Illinois bettors are free to bet on collegiate sports outside the Land of Lincoln via apps and in person.
Why do IL sportsbooks have betting restrictions on in-state colleges?
The main groups that push for tighter regulations on in-state college betting include lawmakers and NCAA officials. Their arguments to restrict betting on college games is as follows:
- The integrity of a collegiate sporting event can be threatened by a lack of regulations.
- Limiting college sports from licensed sportsbooks can protect athletes from gambling interests.
Another argument that’s been made is because most college athletes aren’t receiving compensation, they could be more easily lured to fix games for money. But with name, image and likeness (NIL) deals booming in college sports, that argument is quickly going out the window.
The protection of players is another major sticking point for those that are proponents of extra regulations on Illinois college games. By limiting wagering, athletes could have better odds at avoiding confrontations or social media cyberbullying from bettors that lost cash.
Where to find retail sportsbooks at Illinois casinos
There are currently 11 sportsbooks tethered to casinos in Illinois. By showing up to any of the casinos below, you’ll get the chance to bet on Illinois and Northwestern this March.
- Hollywood Casino, Aurora (Barstool)
- Rivers Casino, Des Plaines (BetRivers)
- Grand Victoria, Elgin (Caesars)
- Casino Queen, East St. Louis (DraftKings)
- Par-A-Dice, East Peoria (FanDuel)
- FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing, Collinsville (FanDuel)
- Hawthorne Race Course, Stickney (PointsBet)
- Argosy Casino, Alton (Barstool)
- Hollywood Casino, Joliet (Barstool)
There are currently no in-person sportsbooks in Chicago, but that is due to change soon. Sometime in 2023, a DraftKings Sportsbook connected to Wrigley Field is expected to open. Also, a FanDuel Sportsbook at the United Center is expected to open this year.
March Madness a joyous time for Illinois sportsbooks
The NCAA Tournament is a fan-favorite among sports bettors, which also means the gaming operators love it, too.
Last year was a particularly strong year because on March 5, 2022, Illinoisans were free to sign up with a sportsbook from their phones or computers. Previously, new customers had to show up in person to create a mobile sports betting account with the operator of their choice.
The added convenience for new users resulted in Illinois sportsbooks taking $286.2 million in handle for the 2022 men’s and women’s tournaments, according to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB).
From those wagers, IL sportsbooks pocketed $14.2 million in profits. Of those earnings, $2.1 million went to the state via taxes.
If Illinois sports bettors could bet online on Illinois and Northwestern in this NCAA Tournament, those totals could easily be surpassed. But that may also require a few wins by either school, which hasn’t happened in a long time.