As Ohio State University defensive end Chase Young faces suspension by the NCAA, the details of the situation could signal a warning for the Illinois college sports betting law. One particular stipulation of the law signed on June 28, 2019 could create more problems than it solves.
Illinois bans betting on games involving in-state college teams. While the intention might have been good, the effects could be dangerous nonetheless.
Why the Illinois college sports betting ban exists
To be clear, Illinois hasn’t banned all college sports betting. Any games that don’t involve in-state teams such as Northwestern University and the University of Illinois will be fair game for Illinois legal sportsbooks.
Therein lies the problem, however. Studies show that sports betting is driven by “fandom.” For instance, because most people in the state are likely to be Chicago Bears fans, most of the NFL action at Illinois sportsbooks will likely be on Bears games.
The same will go for college sports. Because most of the people in the Land of Lincoln are likely to be fans of the Fighting Illini and/or Wildcats, those games will be of most interest for Illinois bettors.
When Illinois residents and visitors discover their local sportsbooks offer no action on those games, they are likely to ask why. When they learn it is because they aren’t legally allowed to do so within the state, interested bettors are unlikely to just give up.
Instead, those bettors often find a bookie or offshore channel that does offer bets on those contests. Not only does this result in lost revenue for the sportsbooks and the state, but it could create a dangerous situation for athletes at those universities, as well.
Why the exemption is bad for athletes at Illinois colleges
Putting Illinois college games on the “black market” results in repercussions familiar to black-market scenarios. That could create a situation not entirely unlike the one Young faces now.
Young faces a two-game suspension, reduced from four games, for taking a loan to pay for his girlfriend’s trip to the 2019 Rose Bowl. While that has nothing to do with sports betting, circumstances for other athletes that do involve sports betting could result in similar problems including even worse suspensions.
Outside of the threat of match-fixing which illegal betting represents, the black market could create a demand for insider information. That could include the injury status of players along with other tips or knowledge about upcoming contests.
There would be no better place to acquire that information than athletes on those teams. As the NCAA and its member institutions continue their archaic system of preventing athletes from receiving equitable, legitimate compensation for their labor, the temptation to sell such information could be strong for certain college athletes.
While it may seem an unlikely hypothetical, the fact that the possibility exists at all is an offshoot of the Illinois law. An adjustment to that law could go a long way in preventing unintended consequences for the very athletes legislators hope to protect.
How the state could avoid the situation entirely
As Illinois legal sports betting hasn’t yet begun, there is still time to fix this issue before it becomes a problem. It’s a simple repeal of the language in the law that makes betting on in-state college games illegal.
The concerns over legal betting influencing the integrity of such contests could actually backfire. The ban could result in college athletes not only losing their eligibility but also becoming embroiled in criminal operations.
At best, this tenet of the law will mean lost revenue for Illinois’ sportsbooks and treasury. At worst, it could destroy the careers of college athletes in the state.