Illinois Cost Itself Some Tax Money With Betting Ban As Local Schools Flop In NCAA Tournament

Written By Joe Boozell on March 22, 2022
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Neither Illinois school made it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament — a bummer for local college sports fans. But it may have been a blessing in disguise for bettors.

Illinois, a No. 4 seed, lost in the Round of 32 to Houston after barely squeaking one out against Chattanooga in its opener. Meanwhile, Loyola Chicago, a 10-seed, barely cracked 40 points in the Round of 64 against Ohio State.

IL schools played three March Madness games and went 0-3 against the spread.

If you don’t know by now, betting on Illinois college teams is only legal in person. If you were looking for lines on your mobile IL sports betting apps, you would have come up empty.

Had either school made a run, the angry tweets about the Illinois policy would be ramping up in frequency. So, while local politicians will temporarily dodge criticism for this unpopular policy, they will also miss out on some tax revenue.

Breaking down the March Madness Illinois betting splits

We have three games of NCAA Tournament betting data from DraftKings Sportsbook, the handle leader in Illinois.

These numbers do not take the Illinois games into account because Illinoisans couldn’t bet on the local teams on the DraftKings Illinois app.

Here are the spread breakdowns for the three games:

  • Illinois vs. Chattanooga: 52% of bets, 32% of money on Illinois -8
  • Loyola Chicago vs. Ohio State: 56% of bets, 50% of money on Loyola Chicago PK
  • Illinois vs. Houston: 51% of bets, 53% of money on Illinois +4.5

As you can see, the bets and money here are pretty split. But there is no hometown bias baked into these numbers on the Illinois side.

It’s hard to put an exact figure on it, but it’s reasonable to think Illinois bettors would have juiced up these figures in favor of their local schools. It’s possible that less than half of the money would have been on the Illini for the Chattanooga game. However, for the others, in-state bets likely would have made local schools a liability for sportsbooks.

After all, Illinois is a top-four sports betting market, and there is a chance it could reach second in the US in the near future.

Last year, Illinoisans wagered around $200 million on the NCAA Tournament, resulting in at least $2.1 million in state tax revenue.

Of course, three games aren’t going to account for close to that figure. But Illinois would have made thousands in tax revenue had it simply allowed people to bet on local schools on their phones.

2022 March Madness betting projections

Before this year’s NCAA Tournament, PlayIllinois projected that Illinoisans would bet just short of $300 million on the dance.

In-person registration is a thing of the past as of March 5. As a result, we should see some gaudy Illinois sports betting figures once the March revenue report comes out.

There was perhaps a possibility that in-person wagering in IL teams would have generated a decent chunk of handle had either Illinois team made a run. But that appears unlikely with the Illini and Ramblers going out with a whimper.

We will have the same limited collegiate betting policy for next year’s March Madness, but the provision expires in the summer of 2023. Then, lawmakers will have to decide what to do with it.

Could we have full college betting capability come football season 2023? Provided there are no serious hiccups; there is a strong chance.

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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, and 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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