Updated: Illinois House OKs Limited Betting On In-State College Teams

Posted By Joe Boozell on June 1, 2021 - Last Updated on June 2, 2021

On early Tuesday morning, the Illinois House of Representatives passed SB 521, which repeals the in-state college sports betting ban.

Now, the bill must pass in the Senate before heading to Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk for a final signature. SB 521 passed with overwhelming support, a 96-11 count in the House.

The bill was not brought up at Tuesday’s Senate session, so the next possible vote will be when the Senate is called in for unfinished business. That should happen before the fall, and considering its support in the House, there is a very good chance SB 521 will pass.

What may come as a disappointment is that the bill only permits in-person wagering on Illinois college teams. You would be able to place these wagers at Illinois casinos, racetracks or off-track-betting sites, but not on your mobile devices.

Online betting for college sports is legal in Iowa and Indiana.

The bill also only allows for “Tier 1” bets. A Tier 1 wager is “determined solely by the final score or final outcome of the sports event and is placed before the sports event has begun.” In other words, player props and live betting are not included. For what it’s worth, excluding collegiate player props is pretty standard in legal sports betting states.

The bill will essentially serve as a trial run, as it expires on July 1, 2023. If all goes smoothly, perhaps lawmakers will be more open to expanding in-state college betting online then.

Where could I bet on Illinois college teams?

As of now, there are nearly a dozen retail sportsbooks in Illinois to go along with the six online sportsbooks. They are:

  • Argosy Casino Alton
  • Club Hawthorne Crestwood 
  • Club Hawthorne Oak Brook 
  • DraftKings at Casino Queen (East St. Louis)
  • FanDuel Sportsbook & Horse Racing (Collinsville)
  • Grand Victoria Casino Elgin 
  • Hawthorne Race Course (Stickney)
  • Hollywood Casino Aurora
  • Hollywood Casino Joliet 
  • Par-A-Dice Casino (East Peoria) 
  • Player’s Pub & Grill (Prospect Heights) 
  • Rivers Casino (Des Plaines)

If the bill passes, bettors in Illinois would be able to bet on college teams such as Northwestern, Illinois, Northern Illinois in time for college football season in the fall.

What else is in SB 521?

In-state college sports betting isn’t the only gaming item in SB 521.

The bill would also allow Wintrust Arena to qualify for a sports betting license. Located in Chicago’s South Loop, Wintrust is home to the Chicago Sky of the WNBA and the DePaul Blue Demons.

As of now, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) has not handed out any licenses to sports venues. Wrigley Field will apply for one at some point, as it has an agreement with DraftKings to open a retail sportsbook at the park.

But Wrigley and DraftKings have yet to submit a proposal to the IGB.

The bill also includes various clean-up items for sports betting, casinos, horse racing and video gaming terminals (VGTs).

What’s not in SB 521?

While legal sports betting advocates are happy to see a change to the in-state college wagering policy, albeit limited, there were several significant items left out of the gaming bill.

There is nothing about online casinos in the bill, which isn’t surprising in following the process over the past few weeks.

A few weeks ago, lawmakers filed a bill seeking a report into how much revenue online casino gaming would have generated had it been legal prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline for the report on Oct. 1, 2021, is a clear signal that Illinois online casino wasn’t happening this session.

The in-person sports betting registration requirement is also not addressed in this bill. If anything, Illinois lawmakers are doubling down on in-person betting, as they’ve also tied it to in-state college wagering.

Therefore, it appears that in-person registration is here to stay until at least early 2022. That’s when the IGB can hand out a mobile-only license, which would trigger online sign-ups for everyone.

Of course, that hinges on someone applying for a mobile-only license, which is no guarantee as they run $20 million a pop.

Proponents, opponents of Illinois in-state college betting

State Rep. Michael J. Zalewski (pictured) led the charge to legalize in-state college betting in IL. His initial proposal would have included online wagering as well, but that bill died during the session.

State Rep. Jonathan Carroll was also a leading proponent of the legislation, as he co-sponsored Zalewski’s original bill and offered support for legalization at an April House Executive Committee Hearing.

So who was against legal in-state college betting in Illinois? Most notably, Division I university athletic directors.

Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman testified at that hearing on behalf of all 13 D1 athletic directors.

Here’s an excerpt:

“They (student athletes) are engrossed in their phones, and … most of the time, they base a lot of their self-concept or self-image about people they’ve never met, what they say about them on social media. And that’s a daily battle that we fight in college-athletics today. By allowing people in our state to bet on our own student athletes, we’re only opening the door and inviting people to have those intense, threatening, abusive interactions with our student-athletes and that’s something that myself and my colleagues strongly oppose.”

In the end, it looks like there will be a compromise for now, and a real shot at online in-state collegiate sports betting in the future.

Photo by AP file photo
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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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