Illinois: Sports Betting Bill Could Allow Wagers on State Collegiate Events

Illinois could pass a bill to legalize sports betting on the state’s collegiate events before March Madness, but a new General Assembly might reset the initiative.

The Bill Would Amend the Sports Wagering Act

Illinois State Representative Mike Zalewski filed legislation on January 9 to authorize sports wagering on state collegiate events. If passed, HB 5876 would come into force immediately and would amend the Sports Wagering Act.

The outgoing 101st General Assembly must pass the bill by Wednesday, before the 102nd General Assembly’s swearing-in, or Zalewski will have to refile the legislation. It was forwarded to the Rules Committee on Saturday after its first reading. However, the bill will have to be read in both the House and Senate chambers over three different days before being able to pass.

The Sports Wagering Act went into effect in June 2019 to allow sports wagering, with Zalewski as one of the driving forces behind the initiative. Illinois started taking wagers in March 2020, a bit before lockdown, and due to Governor JB Pritzker‘s renewals of Executive Order 2020-2041, which suspends the in-person registration required to place bets. The order significantly boosted sports betting activity. It was initially released in June and renewed on Friday.

Bettors Might Have to Wait

Sixteen days of legislative sessions are scheduled from the swearing-in tomorrow to March 16, on the first day of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament‘s First Four, according to the General Assembly. The timeframe is an opportunity to pass the bill before March Madness, which did not happen last year due to the pandemic but is usually an extremely busy and profitable time for sportsbooks.

If the bill does not pass in time for March Madness or the NCAA’s bowl season, bettors will have limited access to games, with six out of 67 games unavailable for betting if Illinois reaches the NCAA men’s basketball finals. Betting options are more limited during those events than during the regular season, as fewer games are played.

Collegiate Sports Wagering the US

Wagering on school teams is already available in various states, and as others have recently legalized sports betting, universities and colleges have been looking into the industry, with potential partnerships with operators. The sector is profitable, with sports betting expected to be eight times bigger by 2024.

Like Illinois, Washington DC, Rhode Island, New York, Delaware, and Oregon prevent bets to be placed on college and university sports events. Iowa and Pennsylvania authorized collegiate sports betting but player prop bets are not allowed.

Virginia and Washington State might begin accepting wagers this year, but legislators will not legalize betting on in-state college teams, while New Jersey is looking into expanding its legislation regarding collegiate sports betting.

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