Illinois gamblers expected to spend millions on NCAA basketball tournament

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Illinois sports books continue to set records in revenues, and the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball tournament most likely will add to those totals.

Illinois sports books took in nearly $600 million in January, becoming only the fourth state to take in more than $500 million in sports bets in a single month.

The state’s tax coffers received nearly $7.2 million in receipts, while Cook County collected nearly $480,000.

Betting expert Nick Wojcikm with the website Odds.com, projects Illinois will take in around $188 million dollars on the tournament.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if some states see all-time records,” Wojcik said.

The Fighting Illini of Illinois is one of the favorites to win the national championship, and Loyola of Chicago also made the field, but the state bans betting on in-state college teams. Of the 21 states that allow sports gambling, 13 prohibit betting on the state’s college teams.

Joe Boozell with PlayIllinois.com said if the Illini go deep into the tournament, look for calls to scrap the law.

“I’m not going to say it will, but there is optimism that it could be changed by next football season which is great, and that means by next year’s March Madness it would be changed,” Boozell said.

State Rep. Mike Zalewski has proposed legislation that would remove the ban. Included in the bill is a stipulation that a university can petition the Gaming Board to suspend wagers on that school’s games.

Boozell said the fact that Illinoisans can’t wager on state teams will ultimately cost the state tax revenue, especially for this year’s tournament.

“In general, sports books do make money off of March Madness and it’s taxed so the state makes money off of it, so it definitely impacts the consumer but also the operators and the government as well,” he said.

The American Gaming Association expects over 47 million people will bet on the NCAA tournament between filling out brackets and placing wagers on the games.

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