Thanks to its legalization, sports betting in Illinois is turning into a bustling industry. Bettors within the Prairie State can place wagers via online legal sportsbooks and apps.
However, there are many other college football teams to wager on, so you may hardly notice the lack of betting on the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Northwestern Wildcats.
Betting couldn’t be easier now that the sportsbook apps are online, with an array of games and wager types available to Illinois bettors.
See below for current live NCAAF game lines & futures odds at Illinois online sportsbooks. Click on any odds to jump directly to the sportsbook, claim your free bets or bonuses and lock in your NCAA football bet. Use the drop-down menu to navigate between point spreads, moneylines & totals odds.
Betting on college football in Illinois became legal in 2019, following two years of legislation. When all was said and done, Gov. JB Pritzker signed the bill into law.
The first legal, in-person sports wager was made on March 9, 2020, at Rivers Casino Des Plaines. A few months later, the first online app became available on June 18, 2020, from BetRivers Sportsbook.
Sports betting will be allowed for nearly every league, including niche sports. These include:
As noted, collegiate sports betting is legal, but betting on the various NCAA teams within the state is illegal.
College football is alive and well, and its popularity with sports bettors has never been greater.
College football is second only to the NFL in the number of wagers made throughout the year. Each season, there are full slates of games every Saturday, making it easy to stay in the action.
If you are 21 years or older and within state lines, you can legally bet on college football. However, Illinois doesn’t allow wagers on college teams that call the Prairie State home. You can’t legally bet on teams from the following universities:
Division II teams, such as McKendree and Quincy universities, are also illegal to place bets on in Illinois, as are wagers on any of the 18 Division III schools.
You should never, ever place a wager without understanding the basics of college football betting.
While there is a slew of bets you can make for each game on the NCAA football slate, the major bets are the point spreads, moneylines and totals, aka the over/under.
When you’re looking at college football odds, you’ll see similar information for each contest. This usually includes the game’s date and time, the teams playing, the point spread, the moneyline and the total. Here’s an example:
In this example, Ohio State is favored to win by 7.5 points, the moneyline wager is at -300 and the over/under is at 43.
If you were to place a bet on the Buckeyes for the point spread, they would have to win their game by eight points or more, e.g., 35-21. Any score that is fewer points, like 35-28, would be a losing wager.
You could also make a moneyline bet on which team will win. If you bet $100 on Ohio State and the Buckeyes won, you’d get $133.33 back — your $100 stake, plus $33.33 in winnings. If you make the same wager on Michigan, you’d get $250 — your $100 stake, plus $150 in winnings.
If you decide to go with the over/under bet, you’d have to choose if the game’s two teams would score more or less than the total points of 43.
So, if the game is a 21-20 barnburner, then the under wager would win. If it went 24-20, then the over would win. If by chance, the game ended up 22-21, then it would be a “push.” Neither side would be a winner or a loser, and the sportsbook would refund your wager.
What’s the secret to being the best bettor you can be? Homework and lots of it.
Not just on stats, but knowing various aspects of a team can give you an advantage. Shopping for the best lines is a significant part of your regular betting strategy.
Each sportsbook sets its lines. For example, suppose the Florida State Seminoles are playing Georgia. You did your research and decided that FSU is going to take the win. A sportsbook, such as FanDuel, could have the moneyline set at -120 for Georgia and +135 for Florida State.
But after shopping around, you might discover that William Hill has the same game with Georgia at -120 and Florida at +150. Because the return on investment is greater at William Hill, you will want to wager on a Seminoles’ victory and maximize your profit.
Sometimes you will see the line move at the same sportsbook you previously researched. For example, the college football betting lines for the Georgia and Florida State game were -120 and +135, respectively, at FanDuel. But later, say after news broke that Georgia’s starting quarterback was injured at practice, the line could move to Georgia at -110 and FSU at +120.
Why the change? Typically, it means that oddsmakers decided the game is going to be closer than initially thought. Sure, they still think Georgia is going to win but aren’t quite as sure. Another reason is if public betting favors one team over the other. In that case, the line moves to ensure the sportsbook doesn’t lose money on the game — it is a business, after all.
First and foremost, the game of football doesn’t change much from the collegiate level to the professional ranks. There are slight rule differences, but the gist of the game remains the same. And so does the style of betting.
There are, however, differences in the range of teams between the two levels, as well as media coverage, on-field play and even how sportsbooks determine the odds.
There are 130 teams at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level alone in NCAA football, and another 127 at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level. That doesn’t even begin to count teams at Division II and lower levels. In the NFL, there are currently 32 teams competing.
Simple math dictates that there are more college games weekly, which is why the sport is so popular on legal sportsbook apps and sites. The NFL garners the most attention from bettors and the media. The NCAA isn’t far behind, of course, but the behemoth that is the NFL dominates.
That doesn’t mean there are fewer fans for college football, but there aren’t the same number of fans interested in each team as NFL teams.
Additionally, there tends to be less wagering on college football than its professional counterpart, mostly from the team mismatches, the number of mistakes in a typical contest and the players’ experience on the roster that are a regular part of college football.
It’s a lot easier to make a bet with confidence when there are fewer unknown factors involved. It’s rare for there to be a surprise star of a game at the NFL level, while first-year players can break out at the college level in about any game. Though, teams who return the most experienced players are usually the ones that bettors watch.
In terms of college football betting, it is typical to find larger spreads because of team mismatches. Also, there are often softer betting lines — and potential opportunities — if you are willing to put in the time to research.
As more sportsbooks open in Illinois, there will be more places to wager. Remember to shop around for the best lines on the games you intend to wager on and make sure to always research before putting down your money.
So, what kind of bets can you make on college football? We’ll break down the four standard bet types and give you an example for each.
Betting on the moneyline is the most basic, straightforward type of wager. Your only job is to determine which team will win the game. Here’s an example:
|South Florida ||+540|
The books seem to expect this one to be lopsided. As you can see, Memphis is a huge favorite. Oddsmakers figure this isn’t even going to be much of a game. To win $100, you would have to bet $910 and get a payout of $1,010, if Memphis does indeed win. If you put $100 on South Florida for the massive upset, you’d take home $640 — your stake, plus $540 in winnings.
In this wager type, oddsmakers place a number to indicate which team they think will win and by how much. In order to have a winning bet, you have to pick which team you think will be able to beat the spread. Here’s an example:
|College Team||Point Spread|
Oddsmakers see this game as being close. They think Wisconsin will to keep it tight but ultimately will top Nebraska by more than 3.5 points. As the bettor, your job is to determine if the game will be closer than that or not. Do you think Wisconsin is going to win by more than 3.5 points? If so, and you make a point spread wager of $100. If you are right, you’d receive $198.04 — a $98.04 profit over your $100 stake. But if Nebraska wins or loses by fewer than 3.5 points, you’d lose the wager and your stake.
When it comes to totals, aka over/unders, the oddsmakers set a number that they believe will be the final total score of the two teams playing. Your job as the college football sports bettor is to determine if the two teams will score more or fewer points than indicated. Let’s look at an example:
|Wyoming ||54 (-110)|
|Colorado State||54 (-110)|
Once you research and determine the strength of each offense and defense, you have to decide if you believe the two teams will put up a combined 54 points. If you think the game will be a defensive struggle, then you’d go with the under. If you think these two teams will have their offenses going full tilt and the defenses will have trouble stopping them, then you may want to go with the over bet. Either way, a winning bet of $100 would bring back $190.91 — your $100 stake, plus $90.91 in profit.
A futures bet is a wager on something that will happen in the future. Sometimes this could be a national championship or the Heisman Trophy winner. Like any bet, you’ll find NCAA football odds at the sportsbook of your choice, and you’ll make your wager on what you think is going to happen. For our example, we’re going to use Heisman Trophy odds:
|Mac Jones (Alabama quarterback)||+125|
|Justin Fields (Ohio State quarterback)||+150|
|Trevor Lawrence (Clemson quarterback)||+400|
|Najee Harris (Alabama running back)||+2,500|
|Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State receiver)||+20,000|
As you can see, every selection for this futures wager comes with positive odds, though the lower numbers clearly spot the favorites. Futures wagers take a lot of research, though it’s not uncommon for fans to place “gut feeling” bets at the beginning of the season.
The lines move a lot throughout the season on futures wagers, and the college football betting odds are usually available for most college football events (like the national championship) nearly immediately after the conclusion of the previous season.
In the case above, let’s say you think that Trevor Lawrence has been too much for teams to handle and there is no way he’ll miss out on hoisting the Heisman this season. A $100 bet would net you a $500 return — your stake, plus a $400 profit. If you made the same bet on Tylan Wallace and win, it would be $20,100 coming your way. Any winning bet on a futures wager must be accurate; if any other player besides the one you choose for the Heisman gets the award, then your bet loses.
It is important to keep in mind that each sportsbook will have its own set of house rules for wagers, which is why it is crucial to read the terms and conditions before placing any bets.
Some standard rules when it comes to betting on NCAA football are:
However, these rules aren’t chiseled in stone, which is why you should take note of any rules individual sportsbooks have in place before wagering.
The best way to get your live college football fix is to have the right combination of cable channels. However, for most folks, that isn’t possible.
So, how can you go about watching or streaming NCAA football games in Illinois? Here are a few options:
Even though it is illegal to bet on college football games that feature teams from Illinois, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a fan of them — and there are plenty to choose from, too.
Here’s a list of NCAA football teams and the conferences they play in:
|Eastern Illinois Panthers||FCS||Missouri Valley|
|Illinois Fighting Illini||FBS||Big Ten|
|Illinois State Redbirds||FCS||Missouri Valley|
|Northern Illinois Huskies||FBS||MAC|
|Northwestern Wildcats||FBS||Big Ten|
|Southern Illinois Salukis||FCS||Missouri Valley|
|Western Illinois Leathernecks||FCS||Missouri Valley|
|McKendree Bearcats||DII||Great Lakes Valley|
|Quincy Hawks||DII||Great Lakes Valley|
|Eureka Red Devils||DIII||Northern|
|Illinois College Blueboys||DIII||Midwest|
|Illinois Wesleyan Titans||DIII||CCIW|
|Knox Prairie Fire||DIII||Midwest|
|Lake Forest Foresters||DIII||Midwest|
|Millikin Big Blue||DIII||CCIW|
|Monmouth Fighting Scots||DIII||Midwest|
|North Central Cardinals||DIII||CCIW|
|North Park Vikings||DIII||CCIW|
The University of Illinois Fighting Illini have appeared in 19 bowl games. The first was in 1946 when the team took on UCLA in the Rose Bowl and won in dominating fashion, 45-14. The most recent was in 2019 when Lovie Smith led his team to the Redbox Bowl against California, a game the Fighting Illini lost, 35-20.
Rivalries are part of what makes college football fun, and the state of Illinois has a few that keep fans foaming at the mouth:
The state legislature passed the law to make sports betting legal in 2019, and since then the first in-person sports wager was made in March 2020 and a couple of months later the first online sportsbooks opened and began taking bets.
Sure! Sportsbooks — both online and retail — are now live in the state, and all you have to do is sign up and place your wagers. You need to be 21 or older and physically within state lines when you place your bet.
You cannot. The apps require access to your mobile device’s geolocation, which allows the app to determine if you are where it is legal for you to place a bet. If you’re not, the app will disable the feature.
It depends on what app you’re using, or if you’re at a retail sportsbook. The former will have multiple options that are specific to each online sportsbook but often range from your bank account to PayPal and other similar online wallets. Retail sportsbooks will have their own requirements, but cash is almost always king.