People in Illinois can continue placing sports bets on in-state college teams at Illinois sportsbooks but not online.
Illinois lawmakers voted to extend in-person betting on in-state college teams until July 1, 2024. If the legislature had not taken action before wrapping up the session this week, such betting would have ceased July 1.
That would have meant no betting within Illinois on University of Illinois and Northwestern games in the coming college football season.
Rep. Bob Rita pushed to add Illinois college betting to SB 98, which includes one-year extensions on various sunsets unrelated to gaming. There’s little doubt Gov. J.B. Pritzker will sign the bill extending the sunsets.
Illinois athletic directors supported the extension.
Background of betting on Illinois college teams
When Illinois legalized sports betting in 2019, it did not include betting on in-state college teams.
This is a safety precaution other states, including New York and New Jersey, have taken in an attempt to protect local college athletes.
But it’s difficult to assess what protection it really provides. It doesn’t stop betting on in-state collegiate games. Those games are still bet on in other states with regulated sports betting and the illegal market. People in Illinois who wanted to place bets on local colleges could still do so by crossing state lines or using an offshore betting app.
So in 2021, former Rep. Mike Zalewski introduced a bill to permit wagering on in-state college teams. It only authorized bets on game outcomes placed before the games, not in-game betting or player props.
Athletic directors from Illinois colleges and universities opposed the bill. As a compromise, the legislature passed legislation requiring people placing bets on in-state college games to do so at physical sportsbooks.
Zalewski included a two-year sunset into the bill. That way the legislature could check on the impact of in-state college betting. Then lawmakers could decide whether to expand the activity online or stop it altogether.
Hearing favored moving in-state college betting online
In April, the House Gaming Committee for which Rita serves as vice chair heard testimony on the issue.
University of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman, representing all 13 ADs in the state, told lawmakers that in-state college betting is hurting collegiate athletes.
“Everything we were worried about when we first started having this conversation has ultimately come to pass,” Whitman said. “Our student-athletes are being frequent victims of online abuse. They are being ridiculed with very hostile words.”
But lawmakers pushed back that college sports have become a big business, that this social media harassment isn’t necessarily related to betting and, if it is, it’s not necessarily bettors located in Illinois.
Whitmer suggested that some revenue from sports betting be set aside for college athletic departments to build their compliance staff and supply mental health support to student-athletes who experience fan abuse could help.
In the end, Whitmer suggested the legislature extend the current model of in-person wagering on in-state college sports for another year. In that time, athletic directors could work with lawmakers to come up with a thoughtful approach on moving forward.
It appears that is what the legislature is doing.
Responsible gambling measures stripped from bill
In March, the Illinois Senate unanimously passed SB 1508 by a 54-0 vote.
As passed by the Senate, the bill required sports wagering apps to display a pop-up message once an hour with resources for gambling addiction assistance. The message would include time spent on the app, total amount wagered and a phone number to call if people need help for problem gambling.
The House Gaming Committee also advanced SB 1508 unanimously. However, on the House floor, Rep. Lisa Hernandez stripped out the responsible gambling measure and substituted language amending the Illinois Lottery Law to direct the Department of Lottery to offer an instant scratch-off game benefitting special causes.
The House passed the amended bill May 19 and the Senate concurred Wednesday. Despite previous unanimous support, the pop-up message requirement did not make the final bill.
Other Illinois gaming issues fail to gain traction
Other Illinois gaming bills went nowhere after cursory committee discussion.
Here are the gaming issues and how they progressed this session:
- Online casino: Three Illinois online casino bills were filed — HB 2239 by Rep. Edgar Gonzalez, HB 2320 by Rep. Jonathan Carroll and SB 1656 by Sen. Cristina Castro. But none of them were really even addressed in committee. Illinois clearly isn’t ready for iGaming yet. Casinos still aren’t unanimous in support of online casino and the successful Illinois video gaming terminal industry opposes the effort.
- Supplier fees: A weird quirk in the original Illinois sports betting law has supplier fees soon to quadruple. Suppliers paid $150,000 for the initial four-year license but soon will have to pay $150,000 annually. That would be more than operators pay per year at renewal. Castro sponsored SB 323, which was pitched as fixing a drafting error in the original bill. It easily passed 55-1 in the Senate and picked up House Gaming Committee Chair Rep. Daniel Didech as House sponsor. But it met resistance with Illinois Gaming Control Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter opposing lowering the fee. It never got out of the House committee. Inaction could soon impact the Illinois sports betting ecosystem.
- Sports facility license fee: The Chicago Sky wants a sports facility sports wagering license. But the current $10 million license fee is steep for the WNBA team, which isn’t the big business of men’s pro teams. Rep. Eva-Dina Delgado sponsored HB 4042 to create a second-tier sports facility license at $3.5 million for venues with a seating capacity of fewer than 12,500. The final committee consensus seemed to be to fold that into a discussion on lowering the overall sports facility license fee next year.
All of these bills are likely to be refiled next session.