Sports gambling arrives just in time for Illinois

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Annalisa Baranowski | The DePaulia

As March Madness rolls in, Illinois plans to launch an industry that guarantees to take your brackets to the next level.

On June 2, 2019, Illinois passed a bill legalizing both online and in-person betting. The law, signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, also allows for betting inside stadiums like Wrigley Field, according to ESPN. Illinois is one of seven other states with a bill recently passed and joins 14 others, including Iowa and Indiana, who have full-scale legalized sports betting as of Dec. 2019.

“The best reason to legalize sports betting is because it brings it into light instead of it being an activity that is going on anyway. [Legalizing sports betting] makes it safer, there are protections for the customer, there is the taxability by the state, there are very clearly defined rules and policies. It is better for the customer as I see it,” said Michael Lynch, an adjunct professor at the school of hospitality and leadership at DePaul. Lynch worked in the casino business for many years before coming to DePaul.

According to Lynch, there are two tracking systems in the world to monitor sports betting. One is solely for the United States and the other one is mostly found in Europe.

“These systems are designed to track sports wagers to see if there is any possibility of something improper going on,” says Lynch.

For states, one of the most obvious reasons to legalize sports betting is so that they can tax it heavily. Illinois seems to be taking full advantage of this.

According to the American Gaming Association, businesses looking into sports betting are required to pay licensing fees of $10 million for land-based gambling operations. For online purposes, there is a $20 million initial fee. There is an additional tax rate of 15-17 percent on sports betting revenue for land-based sports betting and a 15 percent tax rate on online sports betting in Illinois. In addition to this, there is also a $1 million renewal fee every 4 years.

“It’s the next thing [the government] can tax that the populous is going to accept,” Lynch said.

The rules and policies for sports betting change from one state to the next. According to the American Gaming Association, Illinois requires consumers to register in person for an online sportsbook account. Consumers must be 21 or older to participate and betting on in-state collegiate teams may be restricted.

So far, six casinos and a racetrack have applied for licenses, according to the Sun-Times. They join three other casinos including, Rivers Casino located in Des Plaines, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, and Argosy Casino Alton which all received temporary licenses last month. This temporary license allows these casinos to start preparing for sports wagering  before they can actually begin. However, their work is far from over.

In addition to casinos, other authorized operators are race tracks, sports arenas, and online operators.

According to the Sun-Times, Pritzker expects the new industry to launch before March Madness begins March 17. In order to do this, these temporary licensed casinos like Rivers Casino are rushing to get final regulatory approval from the Illinois Gaming Board, according to WGN. However, fast tracks are available for existing Illinois casinos and racetracks, according to the Illinois Gaming Board.

“There are two big events that are the apex of sports wagering, that’s the Super Bowl and March Madness,” Lynch said.

According to Legal Sports Report, last year, the American Gaming Association estimated that 47 million Americans planned to wager $8.5 billion on the NCAA tournament. As more states legalize sports gambling, this number is expected to grow this year.

For sports fans first starting out, sports wagering can be intimidating.

“I don’t do sports betting because it seems like more risk than reward, even if you know who statistically would win,” said DePaul senior and avid sports fan Walter Becker.

Eli Hershkovich, who is an executive producer and host of the podcast You Better You Bet available on Radio.com, believes colleges students need to know the importance of bankroll management.

“I think it’s important for, especially for a college student to understand the importance of bankroll management, which is understanding how much money you are willing to spend on a respective bet and how much money you are willing to lose,” Hershkovich said. “You Better You Bet focuses on informing their audience on how to make smart decisions within sports betting.

If you’re starting out, expect to lose, Hershkovich said. In order to keep your losing under control, you should try to cap yourself at three games a day.

“You don’t just want to tell yourself you want to bet five games a night just because you want all of that action. If you’re capping yourself at two or three games you really like, you’re giving yourself a better chance to be profitable because those are the games you see the most value in,” Hershkovich said.

Becker was also worried that sports betting will ruin the integrity of sports. This is fair, especially in Chicago, where the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal remains a stain in Chicago’s history. However, much has changed in sports since then.

“Professional athletes make so much money today then they did in the past, particularly the ones that can affect the game. They make so much money that it would take so much more to bribe them that it wouldn’t be worth the wager,” Lynch said.

In addition to this, technology has improved significantly since 1919. Organizations like the NFL have central control centers that watch the game from many different angles. This would expose any player or referee that may be interfering with the game, Lynch said.

“In regards to maintaining the integrity of sports, with technology and other organizations, to me, the integrity of sports is more guaranteed because sports betting is now out in the open,” he said.

For sports fans wanting to make their March Madness brackets a bit more interesting, have your pocket books ready as the industry begins to roll out in the coming days and weeks.