Sportsbooks Cleaned Up On Loyola-Chicago Win Over Illinois, Despite No Action From Illinoisans

Written By Joe Boozell on March 23, 2021

Loyola-Chicago upset 1-seed Illinois in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, and US sportsbooks did very well on the game.

Of course, they would have profited even more if betting on in-state college teams was legal in Illinois.

It’s not, though.

And despite the fact that sports betting is legal in Illinois during March Madness for the first time, Illinoisans were not able to wager on a game in which two of its home schools went head to head.

Frustrating? Absolutely.

But a silver lining: If you thought the Fighting Illini would cover the 7-point line, as most did, you saved yourself some money.

Loyola-Chicago win was big for sportsbooks

Illinois was a big liability for sportsbooks going into the game.

At three of the top sportsbooks in IllinoisDraftKings, FanDuel and PointsBet — here were the public betting splits on the spread:

  • DraftKings: 89% of money, 81% of bets on Illinois
  • FanDuel: 82% of money, 81% of bets on Illinois
  • PointsBet: 68% of money, 79% of bets on Illinois

It’s impossible to say what those numbers would look like had Illinoisans been able to bet on the game.

But considering the size of the two fanbases, it’s hard to imagine the Ramblers getting a ton of love in the Prairie State. If anything, the splits may have been even more lopsided given the larger contingent of Illini fans.

So, just how much did Illinois operators miss out on?

We don’t know for sure, but if we connect the dots, it was likely a significant amount.

A DraftKings spokesperson told PlayIllinois:

“It’s hard to come up with a number for what (sportsbooks) missed per se, but that IL game yesterday was our second-biggest game of the day without IL user wagers—which is crazy considering Illinois is one of our highest engaging states. Had users in the state been able to bet, we likely would have been looking at a huge game.”

DraftKings, where the handle splits were the most extreme, is the most popular sportsbook in Illinois by monthly handle.

The matchup was an island game, and two Illinois schools hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament in the same year since 2007 before 2021. So, it’s clear why betting interest was high.

By next March Madness, hopefully, Illinoisans can legally bet on their in-state teams.

Bill would repeal the Illinois sports betting college ban

In February, Illinois State Rep. Michael J. Zalewski (D) re-filed a bill that would allow Illinoisans to bet on their college teams.

There is optimism that it could pass in time for the upcoming college football season. Northwestern, which is fresh off a Citrus Bowl win and a Big Ten Championship game appearance, figures to be good once again.

Most months, college wagering makes up about 25% of the total handle in Illinois. Obviously, that’s without being able to bet on Illinois, Northwestern, Loyola-Chicago, etc.

In March, that share will almost certainly rise due to March Madness.

If Zalewski’s bill passes, we will have a better understanding of how much sportsbooks and the state missed out on as a result of the ban.

Loyola-Chicago favored over Oregon State in Sweet 16

The Ramblers were extremely impressive in their win over Illinois, and the oddsmakers are showing them some respect in the Sweet 16.

Loyola-Chicago is a consensus 6.5-point favorite over 12-seed Oregon State, if you look at out-of-state sportsbooks.

Sportsbooks are also bullish on the Ramblers’ chances beyond the Oregon State game.

Loyola-Chicago is currently +900 to win the national championship and +150 to make the Final Four at DraftKings.

Of the 16 teams remaining, Loyola has the fifth-shortest odds to win it all. Not bad for an 8-seed.

Houston, the 2-seed in Loyola’s region, barely squeaked by Rutgers in the Round of 32. The Cougars are +100 to emerge from the Midwest Region, but the Ramblers are right behind them.

If Loyola-Chicago and Houston win, they will square off in the Elite Eight on Monday.

And again, Illinoisans won’t be able to wager on it legally. But we’ll continue to let you know how the non-Illinois betting public is treating the Ramblers.

Photo by Paul Sancya / AP
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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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