Editor’s note: Illinois residents might be able to wager on local colleges in the future. On June 1, an amendment to Senate Bill 521 that would allow Illinoisans to place sports bets on in-state college teams was passed by the House.
The bill would require anyone who wants to make a bet on an in-state team to do so in person at any of the state’s retail sportsbooks. Wagers on Illinois teams can only be of the “Tier 1” variety, meaning the bet is “determined solely by the final score or final outcome” of a contest, and it must have been submitted before the start of the game. Betting on individual player props is prohibited.
If passed, the provision would run through July 1, 2023, with the amendment being given a two-year trial basis.
Illinois has established itself as one of the premier legalized sports betting states in the country. Its sports betting handle has finished near the top in recent months, just behind New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania, and Illinois is coming off a record March where the state posted a record handle of $633.6 million.
Here are three main takeaways from the March gaming report.
March Madness Plays Big Role Despite Limitations
The impact of March Madness on the month’s sports betting handle was evident. Basketball accounted for more than half of the total handle with Illinoisans wagering $365.7 million of the $633.6 million on the sport.
That number becomes even more impressive when considering residents in Illinois are not able to wager on in-state college teams. Local colleges are banned in Illinois sports betting, which means no one within the state was able to legally bet on Illinois or Loyola Chicago during the NCAA Tournament. Bettors in the state would have to travel across state lines to Indiana or Iowa if they wanted to legally place wagers on those teams.
Rep. Michael Zalewski is looking to change that. In February, he re-filed a bill that would remove the ban on wagering on in-state colleges. During a hearing in April, he noted how the state is losing out on potential revenue with residents traveling outside of the state to bet on Illinois teams, or using illegal books or offshore websites.
“We have a provision that doesn’t do what it was meant to do, and we have a smaller marketplace as a result,” Zalewski said.
Majority of Illinois Players Bet Online
More than 96% of sports bets in March were placed online, according to the gaming report. Mobile sports bets accounted for $609 million of the total $633.6 million handle. It’s the second straight month mobile wagers made up at least 96% of the overall handle. In February, mobile wagers consisted of $490.3 million of the month’s overall handle of $509.7 million.
With the mobile market consistently making up over 90% of the state’s overall handle, it puts Illinois near the top in the country when it comes to how prevalent mobile wagering is in a state.
“Nationally, we see 75%-plus of our bets are made on mobile devices and in many states, it's as much as 90%,” Trevor Hayes, head of Government Relations for William Hill, said in a recent Illinois hearing. “In Illinois, the majority of players are playing on mobile. We have the procedures in place to authenticate the people gaming and have anti-money laundering standards in place, and we have responsible gaming in place. It’s been a success.”
Record Could Stand For a While
The March sports betting handle might not be threatened in the coming months. Sports betting handles typically decrease after college basketball ends and before football begins. The NBA and NHL playoffs start in May and will generate excitement, but besides that, there’s just the mundane baseball season. By comparison, for March, hockey took in just $32.8 million in bets.
In addition to fewer marquee events, Illinois’ ending its ability for users to register remotely will also likely impact its overall handle. On April 2, Gov. JB Pritzker elected not to extend remote registration. Now, new bettors in Illinois who want to wager online must drive to any of the casinos partnered with sportsbooks and sign up in person. Since Pritzker issued the executive order on June 4, 2020, players had been able to register remotely because of the coronavirus.
As long as remote registration is in effect, it will limit Illinois’ ability to grow its sports betting population. Expect handle and revenue to at the last plateau, if not fall off over the next few months.