Illinois House Approves ‘Limited’ In-State College Sports Betting

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Illinois lawmakers approved Tuesday in-state college betting, allowing residents pregame bets at the retail sports betting locations. The state’s House sat overtime to pass Senate Bill 521 with a few amendments, including the one which sets up a trial run for wagering on in-state colleges until July 2023.

The bill now heads back to Illinois’ upper chamber to get the final legislative nod over the amendments added by the House. Then SB 521 will head to the governor’s desk.

Gov. JB Pritzker ended his executive order that had allowed remote registration from June 2020’s summer to April 2021. Throughout that period, Prairie State’s sports betting market flourished.

Illinois sports betting became the third-largest market in the nation and second-largest revenue-wise in March.

What Happened on Tuesday?

The passage of SB 521 preceded a legislative debate that went overtime, and beyond. Eventually, the House approved the bill with a few conditions by a majority of 96-11 votes.

Rep. Bob Rita guided the bill through three Executive Committee votes a day prior.

The bill was initially supposed to have a concurrence vote in the Senate Tuesday, but it missed the agenda before the Senate adjourned. SB 521 is expected to receive a final vote as soon as Senate meets in the coming days.

Prop Bets Still Banned

The details of the proposed changes are less exciting for those looking to bet on in-state college teams in Illinois. Besides the disappointment of no-mobile betting on in-state teams, the amendment specifically bans prop bets.

The changes would only allow Tier 1 wagers on in-state colleges. “Tier 1” is a sports bet that is determined solely by the final score or final result of the sports event, and such wagers must be placed before the sports event has started. Wagering on individual player props is banned.

A Fair Compromise?

The legislative, if passed, will leave bettors who want to place prop bets disappointed. Such disappointment will lead the more passionate and law-abiding to cross the state and place their desired bets in Indiana and Iowa, while the others will swell the revenue of unregulated offshore sportsbooks.

Still, Rep. Mike Zalewski thinks it’s a “very fair compromise”. Zalewski is the lawmaker who had previously filed HB 849 in February to undo the ban on college betting on in-state schools.

The current prohibition is limiting the Illinois market by up to 15%, according to John Pappas of iDEA Growth. The new legislation limiting in-state college betting to retail-only option is unlikely to bring any significant change in the state’s monthly numbers.

Zalewski said the lawmakers took the concerns of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman seriously, who said that a saturated sports wagering market would harm collegiate athletics.

What’s Next?

If passed, which it is most likely, SB 521 would allow limited in-state college betting on a two-year trial basis until July 1, 2023.

The Senate was scheduled to concur the amended version Tuesday but missed the chance.

The Prairie State is among a few sports betting states that prohibit betting on games involving in-state colleges and universities. Even without it, Illinois set the highest sports betting handle record in March when it posted $633.6 million to become the third-largest market in the US, after New Jersey and Nevada.

The state has yet to release monthly figures for April, the first month without mobile sports betting registration.

Retail sports betting is less popular in huge states like Illinois, which reported $24.6 million in total retail handle in March, representing less than 4% of the total monthly handle.

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