Illinois has provided the gambling space with a lot of interesting topics to follow. When it initially approved online sportsbooks, in-person registrations were still mandatory. This was then changed in the wake of the COVID-19 debacle, but was later rescinded and then reissued again, all in a matter of a few months. Sports wagers on in-state college games were not going to be allowed per the state’s approved sports gambling laws, but that has changed now, as well, and it almost went undiscovered.
College Sports Wagers Beat the Buzzer
The idea of allowing bets on games in which Illinois colleges and universities participated isn’t new; rumors have circulated since the beginning of the year that lawmakers might try to get the state to flip on the subject. However, nothing concrete was put in motion. That changed yesterday, the final day of the Illinois General Assembly. An omnibus bill that addressed a myriad of subjects on everything from moving elections to prohibiting police from lying to children during interrogations was presented to lawmakers, with less than 24 hours for it to find approval.
Among the subjects was a provision for in-state college athletics to be given a chance to be included in the state’s lucrative sports gambling market. The language in the bill would allow a two-year trial on in-state college sports gambling. Assumedly, if things go well and regulators don’t see college athletes starting to buy Maseratis or Lambos every other weekend, integrity will be seen as intact and the trial could become permanent.
The idea behind the trial, along with some of the other measures included in the omnibus bill, is to find additional money to support the state’s budget. Lawmakers reportedly worked until almost 2 AM before approving the bill’s language, with Governor JB Pritzker’s signature the only remaining step needed. Because of the timing of the General Assembly’s approval, no updates are available on whether Pritzker has taken any action. However, the language in the bill regarding in-state college sports gambling would allow the two-year trial to begin immediately, but wagers will only be allowed in person and only on teams – no individual player bets will be permitted.
Illinois Goes All-in on NIL
Another section of the bill touches on a subject that the NCAA tried to suppress for decades, but it finally waved the white flag in 2019. California launched a legal initiative in October 2019 that gave college athletes the right to be compensated for the use of their name, image, or likeness (NIL) and, not long after that, other states began drafting their own similar bills. The NCAA tried to stop the spread since it means that it cannot earn millions of dollars on college athletes’ NILs for free. It finally relented, however, after realizing that it was fighting a losing battle.
Illinois lawmakers have now approved NIL legislation that will allow in-state college athletes to seek endorsement deals. There are now 15 states that have approved similar bills, with Illinois almost ready to become the 16th, as long as Pritzker approves the language. If he does, the new law will take effect on July 1.