Harrahs Illinois

Illinois May Lift In-State College Sports Wagering Ban

  • Current law, like many sports betting laws in the US, bans bets on in-state college teams
  • New bill would amend law for two years, allow for in-person bets
  • Bill also expands video gambling machines

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Less than a year after the federal government overturned the ban on sports wagering, Illinois passed a sports betting legalization package in 2019. That legalization package would require in-person registration at Illinois casinos and include a restriction on bets on in-state collegiate teams like the Wildcats or Loyola. Two years later, in-person registration is again required to wager online, but the restriction on in-state college bets has the potential to be lifted.

Sports Betting in Illinois Pre-Amendment 1

Sports betting with the in-person requirement and a ban on in-state college bets went well in Illinois, but revenues were lower than hoped. The COVID-19 pandemic, in a strange turn of events, actually encouraged Governor JB Pritzker to issue an executive order allowing bettors to sign up with an online sportsbook without needing to physically visit a casino. This was a celebrated decision that opened up the market and was likely a contributing factor in their $400+ million dollar handle in October of 2020, despite the closing of many in-person sportsbooks.

However, Pritzker did not opt to renew this order, and in-person registration is once again required. If in-person registration requirements were going to impact the overall revenue from sports betting, lawmakers wanted another way to maximize potential revenue without attempting a risky and controversial change. After taking a look at the figures from the 2021 March Madness, it was noted that figures could have topped $200 million if in-state college bets were allowed: thus, House Amendment 1 was proposed.

House Amendment 1 On Senate Floor

House Amendment 1 passed the Illinois House quickly during a session early this week. It’s expected that the amendment shouldn’t have too much pushback from Illinois senators, particularly because it is a senate bill that legalized sports wagering in the first place. Amendment 1 will not only allow bets on in-state college teams but will also expand the scope of gambling for numerous venues in the Prairie State. Amendment 1 includes the following provisions:

  • Fraternal organizations like VFWs, American Legions able to apply for video gambling machine licenses (except Chicago and Cook County)
  • In-person, pre-game wagers on Illinois-based collegiate teams allowed
  • Eligibility requirements for venues to apply for retail sportsbook licenses eased

Don’t expect to be able to place any complex wagers or live bets on in-state college teams, however. Amendment 1 only allows for pre-game bets on the final outcome of a game. The limited expansion of Amendment 1, according to one lawmaker, is to ensure that the bill will pass muster with local colleges and operators.

Rep. Mike Zalewski says the amendment is “a good balance between what we heard from stakeholders and in being able to improve our sports betting market”. Technically, the Illinois legislative session ended on May 31, but there is still an opportunity for Amendment 1 to pass and allow in-state bets soon: the Senate meets on June 10t

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