Illinois State Rep. Michael J. Zalewski (D) has introduced a bill that would repeal the prohibition of wagering on in-state collegiate sports.
For example, you currently can’t bet on a Northwestern football game or an Illinois college basketball game in the Land of Lincoln. If Zalewski’s bill is adopted, that would change.
Here’s what Zalewski tweeted on Saturday night:
Today I filed HB5876 which would repeal the prohibition on wagering on in state collegiate games. NCAA athletes were asked to play during COVID. Given that fact, the idea they’d be harmed by wagering is illusory. https://t.co/qMjytt2jMP
— Michael J. Zalewski (@mjzalewski) January 10, 2021
When Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Sports Wagering Act into law in 2019, this was one of the more controversial components, along with the in-person registration mandate.
One purpose of the current rule is to protect college athletes from gambling interests. Zalewski argues in his statement that given the current climate, it’s tough to say that protecting athletes is a top priority.
Another theoretical purpose is to protect the integrity of the events. With that said, bad actors can simply take their action to the unregulated “black market” if they choose.
In fact, one could argue that the current law encourages good-faith bettors to take their action to the unregulated market. Obviously, that’s troublesome.
So, what would it mean if this passes? Here’s what we know.
You could bet on Illinois college teams
If Zalewski’s legislation passes, it would be effective immediately. You could then legally bet on any of these teams:
- Chicago State
- Eastern Illinois
- Illinois State
- Northern Illinois
- Southern Illinois
- Southern Illinois Edwardsville (SIUE)
- University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)
- Western Illinois
This would be significant in the long-term, but it would also be important right now. Illinois college basketball, for instance, is currently a No. 2 seed in ESPN’s March Madness bracketology.
As we know, the NCAA Tournament is a wildly popular betting event. Northwestern could also make the NCAA Tournament.
And had in-state collegiate wagering been allowed during football season, the Wildcats likely would’ve drawn plenty of betting interest.
A small wrinkle, for good measure: We’d also avoid hiccups such as golf bettors not allowed to wager on PGA events when a certain portion of the field isn’t paid due to missing the cut.
While that specific issue was resolved, the current state law was the reason for the disruption.
How this could impact Illinois revenue
In October, Illinois recorded $434.6 million in handle, the No. 4 mark in the US.
Considering how young the Illinois market is, that’s very impressive. The number will rise as the market matures, and repealing the in-state collegiate wagering ban would be a nice cherry on top.
Of the state’s $434.6 million October handle, people placed $78.7 million worth of bets on collegiate events.
It’s tough to forecast exactly how much Illinoisans would bet on their local college teams, but eight figures per month feels reasonable.
November numbers will come out soon, and the state could eclipse $500 million in monthly handle.
As IL continues the charge to $1 billion, repealing the in-state collegiate wagering ban would help.
What are the laws in other states?
There’s a wide spectrum of collegiate betting legislation across states. New Jersey, New York and Washington, DC, have taken a similar approach to the Prairie State.
In Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, there are no college betting restrictions.
In Iowa, you can bet on the Hawkeyes or the Cyclones, but individual prop bets are prohibited.
Oregon, on the flip side, doesn’t allow college sports betting at all.
Follow along for updates as this makes its way through the Illinois Legislature.