Published: March 18, 2021

Illinois sports betting law restricts residents from gambling on in-state teams for March Madness

Online sports betting has been a game changer for the Illinois economy.

According to the state gaming board, $2.4 billion has been wagered in Illinois in just the last year. That's $27 million in new tax revenue.

"This money is all dedicated to capital infrastructure," said Illinois Deputy Governor Dan Hynes. "It's going to rebuild our roads and rebuild our economy by putting people to work. I think it's going to have a multiplier effect in terms of creating jobs and creating economic activity for the state."

Illinois residents betting nearly $46 million on Super Bowl LV, with one million of those dollars going into state coffers.

As the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament tips off, there are now six online sportsbooks.

"We have a very robust industry, a lot of different options for consumers. And that's great for the state, that's great for the consumer," Hynes said.

Barstool Sportsbook just launched after getting approval from the Illinois Gaming Board.

Founder Dave Portnoy said he wanted to do business in Illinois, as it's now one of the country's largest markets for gaming.

"We have fans that we know will follow us here. It's a state that's huge for us. We have a lot of history here. So, we're just excited to finally be live in Chicago and in Illinois," Portnoy said. 

Yet, with half a dozen options for online sports betting - and two teams in the tournament - local fans won't be cashing in. That's because it's illegal to bet on in-state colleges or universities.

Some state lawmakers are looking to change that by pushing an amendment to the Sports Wagering Act.

"I don't think the revenue is a reason to do it," said Illinois Representative Mike Zalewski, 21st District. "I think the reason to do it is because it makes sense or it doesn't make sense. We're either a market that's fully working or we're not."

Zalewski's bill now stands in the Executive Committee at the Springfield Statehouse. He expects it to pass, opening up sports betting on Illinois schools by fall, just as football season kicks off.

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