While the NCAA Tournament might be unique this year, March Madness is significant to those in Illinois — sports betting became legal in March 2020.
Two teams from the state made it to the Big Dance — the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Loyola Ramblers are in Indiana, and in the First Round on Friday, the Ramblers defeat Georgia Tech 71-60.
But if you’re hoping to bet on either team and live in the Land in Lincoln, you’re going to have to change state laws first.
But they’re not the only winners — online sports betting has been a game-changer for the Illinois economy, the state government has won, too.
ABC 7 Chicago reports $2.4 billion has been wagered in Illinois in just the last year, with $27 million reported in new tax revenue.
Illinois Deputy Governor Dan Hynes said the tax revenue will go back into the economy and help create jobs and economic activity.
“This money is all dedicated to capital infrastructure,” Hynes said, per ABC 7. “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.”
The article states that there are six online sportsbooks available as the NCAA Tournament tips off.
“We have a very robust industry, a lot of different options for consumers,” Hynes said.
Even with two teams in the tournament, Illinois residents won’t be cashing in on the Fighting Illini or Ramblers because it’s illegal to bet on in-state college teams.
Some state lawmakers like Illinois Rep. Mike Zalewski are looking to change that by pushing an amendment known as the Sports Wagering Act, which would permit wagering on Illinois college teams.
“I don’t think the revenue is a reason to do it,” Zalewski said. “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, ABC 7 reports. He expects it to pass, opening up sports betting on Illinois schools by fall, just as football season kicks off.