Why You Can’t Bet On Illinois College Teams Online

Why You Can’t Bet On Illinois College Teams Online

Editor’s note: From Dec. 17, 2021, placing bets on in-state college teams has been legalized in Illinois. However, this can only be done in person.

You might be curious as to why you can’t place bets on Illinois or Northwestern through your mobile sports betting apps.

Despite sports betting being legal in Illinois since June 2019, online betting on local college football or basketball teams is not permitted.

The reason is straightforward: it’s due to state law. Nevertheless, betting on Illinois college teams at a retail sportsbook in person is now lawful, although the prohibition on mobile betting still remains.

The law that altered the legal status of sports betting in the Prairie State also incorporated an exception for college sports.

However, it’s not an all-encompassing ban. Most college sports events are open to mobile bettors in Illinois, although the restricted matches share one similarity.

The law prohibits wagering on games featuring teams associated with colleges and universities within the state. Illinois is not unique in this restriction; other states with legal sports betting also have similar or even more stringent regulations. However, some states have much more relaxed rules.

Why You Can’t Bet On Illinois College Teams Online 2

It’s difficult to ascertain the amount of revenue Illinois will forego due to the local college ban, but it appears unavoidable. The key issue is whether the benefits surpass this cost.

Illinois’ ban on mobile in-state college sports wagering

This aspect of legal gambling in Illinois is regulated by a line in Section 25.25.d of the Illinois code.

Under this Act, a licensee is prohibited from accepting bets on sports events that involve a collegiate team from Illinois.

Nonetheless, the amendment of the law by HB 3136 now permits in-person betting on these teams.

This encompasses all Illinois college and university teams, not just the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. Although these two may be the primary in-state betting interests due to their membership in the Big Ten Conference, all Illinois teams are included.

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

Some smaller Illinois schools with athletic departments compete in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and lower NCAA (National College Athletic Association) levels. However, only Division 1 events are eligible for betting at legal sportsbooks.

The prohibition does not pertain to sports events within the state, provided they don’t involve a team from the same state. The Big Ten basketball tournaments in Chicago serve as a good illustration.

For instance, mobile sportsbooks licensed in Illinois could accept college basketball bets on a game between Indiana University and the University of Iowa within that tournament. However, any games involving the Fighting Illini and Wildcats would be prohibited.

This renders the sports betting law in Illinois more restrictive than those in neighboring areas, but less so than in other jurisdictions. The laws in nearby Indiana and Iowa exemplify this contrast.

College betting bans in other states

In Iowa, legal sportsbooks are not subject to any restrictions on particular teams they can accept bets on; the only constraint pertains to prop bets.

Sportsbooks in Iowa are prohibited from permitting prop betting on individual athletes, such as predicting the number of points an Iowa Hawkeyes basketball player will score in a game. This restriction is applicable no matter which institution the athlete is affiliated with.

Indiana treats college sports identically to all other sports when it comes to betting. However, just because sportsbooks in Indiana have the ability to post markets on a variety of college sports events, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will.

There’s a wide range of methods used by states that allow legal gambling. For instance, all betting on college sports is prohibited in Oregon. On the other hand, Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are at the opposite end of this spectrum, with no specific exceptions for college sports.

New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Washington, DC, have followed a similar path to Illinois. These states have likewise enacted a ban on betting on college teams within their respective territories. All events occurring within the jurisdictions of DC and NJ are also included in the ban, irrespective of the teams involved.

Why would states essentially forego potential revenue given the immense interest in college sports? The answer lies in effective lobbying.

Why do states limit wagering on college sports?

Advocates for these constraints comprise of legislators and officials from the college sports industry. They champion two primary arguments:

  • The integrity of college sports events is at risk due to the expansion of gambling on them.
  • Keeping college sports out of legal markets safeguards college athletes from the influences of gambling.

The contention is that athletes in these events are more susceptible to match-fixing schemes due to their low compensation compared to major league athletes. Furthermore, the proposition of restricting betting on these events could potentially reduce the odds of college athletes being harassed in person or via social media by aggressive bettors who have lost money.

Nonetheless, there is no substantiated proof indicating that legal betting on college sports results in threats to integrity or heightened negative exchanges between athletes and bettors. Indeed, such limitations might potentially have the opposite effect.

Separating fact from myth on legal college sports betting

Legal books in IL follow the law, however, illegal bookmakers and foreign websites are eager to accept bets on in-state college teams. This maintains the activity on in-state teams within the unregulated, “black market.”

Individuals who illegally place bets are typically more open to attempting to manipulate event outcomes. The most recent instance of an attempt to rig a college sports event, discovered by law enforcement, was linked to an unlawful gambling operation.

In this circumstance, the saying “Sunshine is the best disinfectant” is relevant. College athletes should not be denied the regulatory protections that athletes in other leagues are given. Regulation enhances honesty.

If college sports leaders are worried about athletes being susceptible to match-fixing due to their low pay, they can readily rectify this situation. They can allocate a larger share of the revenue generated by these athletes to them and use it to pay the wages of college sports officials.

Illinois’ lost revenue due to this ban

Determining the precise amount of revenue loss is challenging. Estimating accurately the number of people in Illinois who would place bets on in-state teams, and the amount they would wager if allowed, is also difficult. However, the illegal market may not be the only alternative for such activities.

Residents of Illinois can legally bet on their state’s college teams by crossing the borders into Indiana or Iowa, effectively shifting their gambling tax dollars to these states. Given that Illinois houses two Big Ten institutions within its confines, this could cause the regulated IL betting market to miss out on millions of dollars in annual handle. Over time, this could translate to a significant loss in tax revenue amounting to millions of dollars.

Consider the scenario where Illinois or Northwestern participate in a Big Ten men’s basketball tournament championship game or make it to the Final Four. The financial loss from just one such game could be substantial. However, the most damaging impact may be on a still-emerging market. Bettors who have previously placed bets out of state or through illegal means may continue those habits if they can’t find the markets they’re interested in with legal bookmakers, not only for these wagers but for all their betting activities.

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Illinois law isn’t the worst but it could be better

To conclude, Illinois gamblers should rejoice as there’s no total prohibition on college sports betting. This agreement is one of many that has led to the operation of legal sports betting outlets in the Prairie State.

Simultaneously, the reasoning behind this provision is dubious. It may result in gamblers remaining in the unregulated market or even going out of state to gamble. In the worst-case scenario, it could expose athletes to attempts at match-fixing. In a sense, this was a typical case of a “solution in search of a problem.”

This part of the law may be repealed by the state someday.