The battle for legalized sports gambling in the state of Illinois has been a tumultuous one.
The state became the 15th in the union to legalize sports betting in July 2019. The first legal wager was then placed in May 2020 after a rather slow ramp-up.
Like many states, Illinois began their tenure in the world of sports gambling by requiring residents to register and bet in-person at approved retail sportsbooks.
Later that year, Illinois allowed online betting for the first time. However, new bettors were still required to register in person. The in-person registration requirement was temporarily lifted in August 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Governor Pritzker later declined to renew the executive order.
Through the ups and downs, there has always been one restriction in place that has frustrated Illinois bettors. That is the inability to place wagers on in-state college teams. The state has remained stedfast in their denial of in-state college betting in an attempt to maintain a certain level of integrity in its local sports.
Fans' frustration with the restriction was evident more than ever during this year's NCAA Tournament, especially in the second round when Illinois faced off against in-state foe Loyola-Chicago. Residents have also felt the restrictions with Northwestern, NIU, DePaul, Southern Illinois, and others.
Well, it seems as if this restriction may be finally coming to an end.
Early this week, the Illinois House of Representatives passed an amendment to Senate Bill 521 that will finally allow in-state college betting.
Representatives Michael Zalewski and Robert Rita spearheaded the Amendment, which passed the House Tuesday with a 96-11 vote in favor.
The Illinois senate will vote on the bill next, and by all accounts things look promising.
A Few Caveats Remain
While this is a major win for Illinois gamblers, a few restrictions will remain in place.
First, wagers placed on in-state college teams still cannot be placed through mobile betting. Bettors will need to visit their local sportsbook and place bets in person.
Second, the state is only allowing tier-one wagers to be placed on in-state college teams. This includes bets that predict only outcomes of the games (moneylines, point-spreads, over/unders). Player and team props will not be available.
Finally, live in-game betting will not be an option for Illinois residents. All bets on in-state college teams will need to be placed prior to games starting.
These restrictions are sure to frustrate local bettors who would prefer unobstructed betting options on their hometown teams, but it's a start.
Assuming the Senate passes the amendment, it will be firmly in place for two years, and scheduled for renewal in July 2023. At that time, lawmakers will need to decide whether the move was a positive one or not.
The amendment addresses, as well as ignores, other topics as well. One glaring omission is anything related to online registration, something a facet of the legislation continues to oppose.
In an article on Monday, SportsHandle detailed some of Rep. Rita's comments on the House floor, including his desire to bring another bill to the House at a later date that would address mobile registration.
On the other side, the amendment did include an approval for Wintrust Arena to apply for a license to build an in-house sports book. Wintrust Arena is the home of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, and also hosts both men and women's basketball for the University of DePaul.