Illinois Legalizes Betting on In-State College Teams

A general view of Wrigley Field as the Northwestern Wildcats take on the Purdue Boilermakers. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/AFP.

Sports fans in Illinois will be permitted to bet on college teams based in the state after lawmakers announced tweaks to the regulatory framework.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation lifting the ban on in-state collegiate action, meaning bettors can now wager on teams like DePaul and Northwestern.

However, there is one major caveat. Bets on those teams can only be placed at land-based sportsbooks, and not via mobile apps. Player props are also not permitted.

The new law will run for two years, at which point legislators will have to devise another bill in order for betting on in-state college teams to continue.

University of Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman vehemently opposed the bill, arguing that it puts collegiate athletes under undue pressure from bettors. Yet industry leaders countered those claims by pointing out that bettors in Illinois can bet on teams like DePaul and Northwestern by either heading over the border into Indiana or using an offshore sportsbook.

State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, the leading authority on Illinois sports betting legislation, said the tweaked law “strikes the right balance between a modern sports betting market and player safety.”

In-Person Registration Requirement Scrapped

There was one piece of good news for online sportsbooks too. Illinois has decided to scrap the need for in-person registration at a retail sportsbook, meaning players can now simply download an app, enter their details and start playing.

The previous requirement for in-person registration handed a significant advantage to BetRivers, whose casino is located close to the city of Chicago. Rivals FanDuel and DraftKings have retail sportsbooks located much further away, making it easier for the city’s residents to sign up with BetRivers, which is owned by Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive.

The new law means it will be a lot easier for bettors in Illinois to sign up for accounts with multiple sportsbooks. That means they can claim a variety of bonuses and shop around for the best odds on sporting events.

A Boost for DraftKings and FanDuel

In October, sportsbooks in Illinois handled $840.4 million in wagers, setting a new monthly record for the state.

That left Illinois as the third-largest sports betting market, behind only New Jersey and Nevada. However, its industry is a lot less mature than those states, so it could yet overtake them. Scrapping the need for in-person registration could certainly help.

DraftKings was the clear market leader in terms of handle in October, with $310 million, despite the complications around signing up for an account. It earned $12.9 million in revenue on that handle.

FanDuel was second, with a handle of $236 million. However, its revenue was $23.2 million.

BetRivers was a distant third, with $119.3 million in handle, and it could potentially fall further behind following the tweak to the registration rules.

Some leading operators, including BetMGM, have not yet launched in Illinois, and they could be more inclined to do so in the new climate, leading to a more competitive industry.

New Sportsbook Heading to Wintrust Arena

The legislation signed by Gov. Pritzker allows for a retail sportsbook to open at Wintrust Arena, the home court of the DePaul Blue Demons and Chicago Sky, and Wrigley Field (Cubs), Guaranteed Rate Field (White Sox), Soldier Field (Bears), and the United Center (Bulls and Blackhawks) can now apply to hosts sportsbooks too.

There is also a new 2% tax on sports betting revenue on wagers placed within a five-block radius of a casino, racetrack or retail sportsbook in Chicago. The state imposes a 15% tax on adjusted gross sports wagering revenue, while Cook County has an additional 2% tax on revenue generated on all bets placed within the county.