How The Rise of Illinois Sports Betting Is Impacting College Students

Written By C.J. Pierre on March 8, 2023 - Last Updated on March 10, 2023

It’s no secret that legal online sports betting is on a massive upswing. Since the official launch of sports betting in Illinois in 2019, over $19 billion in wagers have been placed. That’s a lot of cash.

Illinois’s legal sports betting age is 21, which is the case in most states. However, that brings into question the impact gambling is having on the youngest players, particularly those that may be college students.

Lawmakers have worked hard to make responsible gambling in Illinois a priority for college students. They have tried to ensure that most college-aged students do not have access to online betting and that the operators stay away from them.

But that doesn’t stop them from seeing sports betting ads on TV or all over their favorite teams’ stadiums.

So how is sports betting impacting the bright young minds on college campuses in Illinois? And what is being done to ensure things don’t get out of hand?

Sports Betting among college students on the rise

According to a study by the National Council on Problem Gambling, about 67% of all college students bet on sports in some capacity. That’s a huge number, given that 21 is the legal sports betting age in all but four states that have launched online wagering. Researchers also estimate that 75% of college students gambled during the past year, whether legally or illegally.

The study also states that the most frequently chosen gambling activity for college students is the lottery at 41%, followed by card games at 38%, and sports betting at 23%. They add that approximately 6% of college students in the US have a serious gambling problem.

While the fun way to gamble has been around for as long as most of us can remember, betting from your phones has now become easier than ever before.

How Illinois sports betting is handled on college campuses

Major colleges, with thousands of students and possibly millions of fans, have become an attractive market for sports betting operators. The NCPG says at least eight universities have deals with sports gambling companies.

The New York Times has also reported that at least a dozen athletic departments and booster clubs have signed agreements with bricks-and-mortar casinos. And officials are expecting that number to grow. These partnerships allow sports betting operators to advertise on campus, in athletic venues and, in some cases, directly in students’ email inboxes.

That is not the case in Illinois where there has been an effort to prevent underage betting and protect college athletes. University of Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman says athletes could face pressure and even physical threats from bettors, some of whom might even live in the same dorm.

As of today, there are no universities in Illinois that have agreements with any sports betting operators. So there is no sports betting advertising at State Farm Center or Memorial Stadium where the Illinois basketball and football teams play. However, fans watching at home are sure to see tons of betting ads when they watch these teams play on TV.

In the state of Illinois, some university officials claim that allowing betting on local college teams puts student-athletes at risk. That aligns with the data from the NCPG study. Their research shows that nearly 30% of male athletes bet on sports.

Betting on Illinois college teams can only be done at retail sportsbooks

Betting on March Madness is heating up. Some tickets to the 2023 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament are being punched this week as conference tournaments are underway. It is the one time of year when all eyes in the sports betting world are on college basketball.

That means tons of students of legal betting age will be looking to place wagers on their teams. However, that isn’t a simple task in The Prairie State. In Illinois, you can’t bet on any Illinois college teams unless you are at a retail sportsbook. Illinois is one of a few states with this rule. However, it was put in place by state lawmakers to protect college athletes and the integrity of the game.

While this might make it a little more inconvenient for a 21-year-old college student to bet on the Illinois Fighting Illini to make a run in the tournament, it doesn’t make it impossible. You can bet on the teams and NCAA player props on schools outside of Illinois.

If you have a gambling problem, here is where you can get help

For anyone that develops a gambling problem, the NCPG lists a number of places in Illinois where you can get help for problem gambling, including:

National Problem Gambling Helpline

Call: 1-800-522-4700

Text: 1-800-522-4700



Illinois Council on Problem Gambling

Helpline: 800.522.4700


Self help resources

• Gamblers Anonymous (
Is fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from a gambling problem.

• Gam-Anon (
Is a self-help organization for the spouse, family or close friends of compulsive gamblers.

 GamTalk (
Is a 24/7 moderated online peer support forum.

Photo by AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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C.J. Pierre

C.J. Pierre is a Lead Writer at Play Illinois. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN and is an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. He recently dove into tribal casino and online gambling news. He also covered the launch of sports betting in Arizona. C.J. has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career, most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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