Betting On Illinois College Teams In Person Is Legal, But As Of Now, There Is Nowhere To Do It

Written By Joe Boozell on January 4, 2022

Illinois sports betting law now allows wagering on in-state college teams in person. But if you go to an Illinois casino or racetrack, and you won’t find any lines on Illinois games.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed HB 3136 into law in mid-December, legalizing betting on Illinois college teams. A few weeks have passed, and no casinos or retail sportsbooks offer Northwestern lines, Loyola Chicago odds, etc. So, what gives?

In order for a retail sportsbook to start offering these lines, it must file a request with the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB). But according to an IGB spokesperson, no sportsbook has filed a request.

The reason? It may underwhelm some.

Illinois college betting is not a priority for sportsbooks

Simply put, the in-person stipulation dampers the enthusiasm for operators and consumers alike.

After asking around, there is very much an “it’ll happen when it happens” attitude among Illinois sportsbooks. With that said, operators certainly want to have markets for Illinois college teams in time for March, as March Madness betting is a huge draw at retail sportsbooks.

The numbers also explain the apathy on the operators’ side. In the latest revenue report, just 4.3% of the handle came from retail sportsbooks. When you’re only tacking on Illinois college teams to that clip, it’s unlikely to make a meaningful impact.

And when you factor in that Illinois and Northwestern didn’t qualify for a college football bowl game, the lack of urgency makes sense.

Though again, the attitude should shift come March Madness. Illinois and Loyola Chicago are near locks to make the NCAA Tournament, and Northwestern should be in the discussion.

Last year, Illinois and Loyola Chicago faced one another in the NCAA Tournament. While that is unlikely to happen two years in a row, retail IL sportsbooks would certainly want to be prepared for a situation like that — or the Illini or Ramblers making a Final Four run.

In-person stipulation has an expiration date

The pesky in-person requirement expires on July 1, 2023. Then, it will be up to the legislature to decide what to do.

That doesn’t mean we will automatically have online betting on IL college teams. That is one option, but lawmakers can also decide to extend the policy as is or scrap wagering on Illinois universities entirely.

There is hope among proponents that assuming the next few years go smoothly, and there is a good chance the state will expand the policy online.

Other changes from HB 3136

The biggest sports betting update from HB 3136 is that the in-person registration requirement will go away on March 5, 2022.

That’s just in time for March Madness. We should see a flurry of new sportsbook launches after that, as it is much more attractive for an operator to launch sans in-person registration.

Illinois posted $840.4 million in October handle. With online registration returning in March, the Land of Lincoln could sniff $1 billion in total bets.

The law also allows Wintrust Arena to apply for a sports betting license. And with Chicago’s recent passage of an ordinance that lifts the city’s sports betting ban, Wintrust should have a retail sportsbook within the next few years.

Photo by AP Photo/Paul Beaty
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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