Sports activities Betting in Illinois: Legislators are contemplating lifting the state’s ban on school wagering

Illinois sports bettors were excluded from betting on the Illinois and Ramblers in March Madness, but there’s a good chance they can take legal action against the Wildcats, Huskies, and other state teams when college football season kicks off this summer.

State lawmakers tabled a bill earlier this week that would abolish portions of a controversial provision of the Illinois Sports Betting Act that prohibits sports betting from wagering on games involving Illinois college teams.

Critics say the state’s ban is preventing a fast-growing industry from reaching its full potential, especially when such bets are available right across the border in Indiana, let alone illegal offshore betting websites.

But the heads of some college programs say it is the only means that will protect student athletes from further tides of online harassment and inadequate pressure – possibly through the wagering of the students in the dormitory across the hall.

For this reason, legislators have agreed on a “middle ground” with the new Gambling Act, which, according to State Representative Mike Zalewski of Riverside, stipulates that state college bets must be placed in person at a casino, racetrack or betting shop off the racetrack Democrat who spoke out on sports betting legislation.

The provision limits bets to the outcomes of matches, not individual achievements, and would expire after two years.

“I think it’s a great compromise,” the Riverside Democrat said in a telephone interview the day after the law passed Illinois House 96-11 during a marathon session early Tuesday. “If student athletes are harassed, we’ll look at it again. If we don’t get enough income, we can reconsider. “

State Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, speaks at Illinois House May 28. AP Photos

The State Senate would have to approve the measure before it is sent to Governor JB Pritzker’s desk.

University of Illinois Sports Director Josh Whitman urged lawmakers to lift the ban during a hearing on the 28th Daily.

“The comment is disgusting, offensive, threatening and in some cases directly references gambling losses,” said Whitman. “By allowing the people of our state to bet on our own student athletes, we are just opening the door and inviting people to have these intense, threatening, and abusive interactions.”

Whitman, who played a tight end in Illinois in the late 1990s, said the fact that residents have to travel to Indiana or Iowa to bet on state teams is still “a pretty strong deterrent for people on our team to bet “.

Josh Whitman, Sporting Director of the University of Illinois, pictured at Memorial Stadium in Champaign in 2017.

Josh Whitman, Sporting Director of the University of Illinois, pictured at Memorial Stadium in Champaign in 2017. AP Photos

Zalewski said the rule “just doesn’t make sense when Indiana and Iowa have fully functional sportsbooks,” but added that he followed Whitman’s logic in requiring bettors to travel to a brick and mortar sportsbook if they got a piece of Illinois college action.

“That requires additional effort. I think we met him halfway, ”said Zalewski, who initially pushed for the ban to be lifted completely.

Through a spokesman, Whitman declined to comment on the weakened bill that the Illinois House passed.

Anyway, it’s hardly going to be a boon to a gambling market that has already drawn nearly $ 1 billion in wagering on college teams from out of state since sports betting went live in Illinois just before the pandemic broke out. About 97% of that dollar was spent on cell phones and other mobile devices.

With the vast majority of bets placed online, critics say the state is leaving millions of dollars in potential tax revenue on the table by banning mobile betting on college teams in Illinois – but “any relaxation of the state’s college wagering ban will be made.” Ultimately, “be beneficial to the industry,” said Joe Boozell, analyst for betting website PlayIllinois.com.

“Any change that only affects retail bets will, by its very nature, be limited in its effects. Ideally, however, this move is a gradual step towards the complete lifting of the ban, including online, ”said Boozell.

The state college betting regulation is part of a gaming law that would also allow sports betting in the Wintrust Arena in the South Loop. Other major sports venues like Wrigley Field and the United Center are allowed to open books but have not yet applied to state gambling regulators.

The state Senate could take up the bill later this month if lawmakers are expected back in Springfield.

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