Published: December 17, 2021

Illinois college teams on the board as Pritzker signs law lifting betting ban on in-state schools

Sports betting was legalized in Illinois two years ago, but wagers on in-state teams had been prohibited.

For the first time since sports betting was legalized in Illinois two years ago, bettors can now lay wagers on DePaul, Northwestern and other in-state college teams.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed legislation lifting the ban on in-state collegiate action, a measure that’s expected to increase the volume of bets in the state’s burgeoning industry — over the objection of some university officials, who have argued it puts student-athletes at risk.

The new law comes with comes with a few caveats. Bets on Illinois teams can only be placed in person at one of the state’s casino or racetrack sportsbooks, not on a mobile application, which is how the vast majority of wagers in the state are placed.

Wagers are also limited to the outcomes of games, not individual performances. Also, the in-state ban would be reinstated in two years unless lawmakers pass another bill allowing it.

State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, who spearheads Illinois sports betting legislation, said the tweaked law “strikes the right balance between a modern sports betting market and player safety.”

It had been staunchly opposed by University of Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman, who argued athletes could face undue pressure and even physical threats from bettors — some of whom might even live in the same dorm.

But industry leaders have argued residents can already bet on Illinois teams in nearby Indiana, If not illegally.

Illinois’ sports betting industry, launched in March 2020, already is among the three largest U.S. markets. October was the state’s biggest betting month yet, with a whopping handle of $840 million in wagers placed statewide.

The law Pritzker signed also allows for a sportsbook at Wintrust Arena; lets new sports bettors sign up for accounts online instead of in person starting March 5; and prohibits towns from imposing additional per-push taxes on video slot machines, among other tweaks to state gambling law.

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