Want To Bet On The Fighting Illini? Lawmaker Re-Files Bill To Allow In-State College Wagering

Posted on February 11, 2021

Illinois State Rep. Michael J. Zalewski (D) has re-filed a bill that would remove the ban on in-state college sports wagering.

The bill is the same as the one he filed in January. However, the difference is that the new General Assembly is now seated in Illinois.

Last month, the bill did not make it out of the Rules Committee after a first reading.

While this wouldn’t pass in time for March Madness, there is a chance it could in time for the 2021 college football season.

Here are the college teams that Illinoisans can’t bet on:

  • Bradley
  • Chicago State
  • DePaul
  • Eastern Illinois
  • Illinois
  • Illinois State
  • Loyola
  • Northern Illinois
  • Northwestern
  • Southern Illinois
  • Southern Illinois Edwardsville (SIUE)
  • University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)
  • Western Illinois

Northwestern is coming off a football season in which it nearly won the Big Ten and dominated Auburn in the Citrus Bowl. Ideally, Illinois sports bettors could bet on the Wildcats next season, among other teams.

Zalewski tweeted the following in January:

His tweet is in reference to concerns that in-state collegiate wagering could harm the athletes.

However, he also added that he hopes to work with fellow state lawmakers to “find a way for student athletes to benefit from wagers placed on games they play in.”

How popular is college sports betting?

While professional sports are more popular, college sports make up a significant chunk of Illinois sports betting handle.

In November, Illinois customers bet about $113.6 million on college sports. The total state handle was $449.2 million, so college sports accounted for a quarter of that number.

Obviously, the figure would also rise if Illinoisans could wager on their in-state teams.

That would be especially true in March, with March Madness approaching.

As it turns out, Illinois currently has its best college basketball team in years.

Illinois Fighting Illini could get a No. 1 seed in March Madness

Party like it’s 2005? U of I has its best college basketball team since the Dee Brown-Deron Williams era.

Unfortunately, despite the fact the sports betting is legal in the Prairie State, residents can’t bet on the orange and blue.

The Fighting Illini are currently a No. 2 seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest ESPN Bracketology. That means they’re within striking distance of a No. 1 seed.

The Illini are 13-5 overall, and the advanced metrics love them. KenPom, for instance, has Illinois ranked as the No. 4 team in the country.

They’ve been especially hot as of late, winning four straight games in the loaded Big Ten.

So, what are Illinois’ odds of winning the national championship, you might ask? Open one of the five sportsbook apps in the state, and you won’t see the Illini listed due to the ban.

But DraftKings, for example, has odds listed in other states. And Illinois is currently 20/1 to win the title there.

The Illini’s odds to make the Final Four, meanwhile, sit at a healthy 4/1.

Here is Illinois’ upcoming schedule:

  • Feb. 12: @ Nebraska
  • Feb. 16: vs. Northwestern
  • Feb. 20: @ Minnesota
  • Feb. 23: @ Michigan State
  • Feb. 23: vs. Nebraska
  • Feb. 27: @ Wisconsin
  • March 6: @ Ohio State

The Illini are No. 8 on offense and No. 12 on defense at KenPom, and they have plenty of star power.

Ayo Dosunmu is one of the best guards in college basketball, and that’s always significant in March. Dosunmu is averaging 21.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.

Sophomore center Kofi Cockburn is averaging a double-double at 17.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. The Dosunmu-Cockburn inside-out duo is as good as we thought coming into the season, and they are playing their best ball at the right time of the year.

Will the Illini be this good when (if it passes) residents can legally bet on them in the state?

We can only hope. For now, the Indiana and Iowa borders might not be too much of a trek, depending on your location.

Photo by Bradley Leeb / 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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