(The Center Square) – A gambling analyst said Illinois is on a fast track to leading the nation in gambling revenue with the passing of new measures by lawmakers.
A bill headed to the governor’s desk would set a March 5 deadline for the Illinois Gaming Board to allow sports betters to register online. Under the existing law, the in-person registration requirement would be lifted when the Illinois Gaming Board issues the first of three online-only sportsbook licenses created by the 2019 law.
“Right now there are only six sportsbooks,” said Joe Boozell, lead analyst with PlayIllinois.com. “I expect that number to double by the end of 2022 because no sportsbook really wants to launch if there is not an online registration.”
Illinois is the No. 3 sports betting market in the country by handle on a monthly basis. With online registration returning, Boozell said Illinois could be on a path to challenge the largest sports betting markets in the country.
“I think once we have online registration back, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Illinois jump Nevada each month and maybe charge toward a $1 billion in handle over the next several years,” Boozell said.
Illinois sports betting began in March 2020, just as the state was about to shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Illinois has proved to be a robust sports betting market, generating nearly $400 million in post-payout revenue in the first year and $57 million for the state coffers in the fiscal budget year ending June 30.
An amendment to the bill also allows all sportsbooks to take wagers on Illinois college teams, something that was restricted when the original gaming bill passed in 2019. However, there are restrictions.
When betting on Illinois college teams, the wager must be placed in person at a sportsbook and not on an app or online. Only one-tier wagers can be made on in-state teams, like the outcome of a game or an over/under bet. No bets can be made on individual player performances, or player props.
Athletic directors at the state’s Division 1 schools opposed the measure, citing concerns about players’ mental health and safety.
University of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman has been outspoken about the in-state betting.
“They’re living amongst the people who are betting on them, which is strange, to know that somebody who lives in the dorm room right next door might be betting on them,” said Whitman.
The legislation also prohibits a “push tax” on video gambling terminals by municipalities, and caps an annual fee that non-home rule municipalities can charge on video gaming terminals at $250.