Jim O'Donnell: Relaxed sports gaming rules in Illinois will add more madness to March

  • People can now bet on games involving state colleges and universities, like this one with Northwestern's Boo Buie driving on Illinois' Trent Frazier last Sunday in Champaign.

    People can now bet on games involving state colleges and universities, like this one with Northwestern's Boo Buie driving on Illinois' Trent Frazier last Sunday in Champaign. Associated Press

Updated 3/5/2022 6:01 PM

A FIREBALLING CYNIC MIGHT SUGGEST that until elementary schools have slot machines for ages 6 and up, legalized gambling hasn't really arrived in Illinois.

Nonetheless, those ambiguous fathers of "adjusted gross revenues" are expanding the scope of sports gaming in the state this weekend.


The broader boulevards stem from new legislation signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in December.

Major inclusions are:

• Speculators can finally legally bet on games involving Illinois colleges and universities. But to do so, they must go to a bricks-and-mortar sportsbook and can't get down via online app;

• While wagerers can chase team outcomes before start times of games involving Illinois schools, no bets on the performances of individual athletes are allowed;

• Online registration with any of the state's six sportsbooks is again in play. Except for a pandemic-connected interlude when that was OK, only in-person signups have been allowed since legal sports betting launched in March 2020.

BOTTOM LINE, THE NEW RULES should give Illinois merchants of luck a shot at moving up in the national rankings.

According to January figures published by Sports Business Journal, Illinois was No. 4 in gross handle with an estimated $830M, trailing New York ($1.6B), New Jersey ($1.3B) and Nevada ($1.1B).

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The national total was more than $8.3B. That figure will certainly trend skyward during March Madness.

INSIDE THE LAND O' WINKIN', DraftKings -- affiliated with The Casino Queen in East St. Louis -- is the state's leading operator with a market share of approximately 35%.

No. 2 is Fan Duel at Fairmount Park -- another Downstater -- with close to 29%

BetRivers/Des Plaines is a resourceful No. 3 and also the league leader in on-site wagering. But that segment accounts for less than 3% of the current monthly tote in Illinois.

Rounding out the privileged sextet is: PointsBet (Hawthorne Race Course, Prospect Heights and the Crestwood OTB), Barstool (Hollywood Aurora) and retrenching Caesars (Elgin, Metropolis and Harrah's Joliet).

SOON TO ENTER THE FRAME is BetMGM, which is affiliated with the Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria.

As far as "hold" -- the amount won by the casino book after winners are paid -- the house-to-house adjusted gross has been a dependable 7 to 12%.


That means some win, some lose and all get steadily munched on by the vigorish.

Same as it ever was.

Now, from the side of the state-licensed operators, if only those first-grade slots players could be evolved into third-grade sports speculators.

HERE'S A STATE OF THE DISUNION for MLB owners and pandering lackey Rob Manfred: In a market the size of Chicago, for a suburbanite attending a Cubs or Sox game involves a typical time investment of somewhere around six or seven hours.

To see roughly 20 minutes of "action."

And, they expect you to pay for it.

The new-mill game is excessively tedious. Its most faithful remaining demo is males who polled toward either Richard M. Nixon or Wavy Gravy.

And, since the onslaught of free agency, as Jerry Seinfeld said of the game, "You're actually rooting for the clothes, when you get right down to it."

STREET-BEATIN': In the last month, NBC Sports has given America: The lowest-rated Olympics in TV history, a bland production of Super Bowl 56 and far too much of gassy placeholder "Vanilla Mike" Tirico. This weekend, The Peacock kept the cold dice going with startup coverage of The Road to the Triple Crown -- a "Biography" of Joy Behar would draw more mainstream interest. ...

Sneakiest-hot men's basketball team in the region right now is Tony Stubblefield's DePaul. If the surprisingly resilient Blue Demons can win their Big East tourney opener at Madison Square Garden Wednesday, athletic director DeWayne Peevy will push for an NIT bid. ...

No question Joe Buck is indeed considering taking his Rotary luncheon emceeing to ESPN/ABC. That would mean Kevin Burkhardt has a shot of movin' on up to Fox's lead NFL play-by-player and Joe Davis emerges as the network's No. 1 MLB guy. ...

Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors vs. New York in Hershey, Penn., 60 years ago this week. Amazingly, the Knicks had no full-season NYC radio package that year. And "The Big Dipper" supposedly told Angie Dickinson, Eartha Kitt and Lady Bird Johnson he wanted to be alone on the car ride back to Philly. ...

And Stephen Colbert, on news an unused ticket from Michael Jordan's regular-season debut with the Bulls fetched $468,000 at auction: "Although $400,000 of that was for Ticketmaster fees."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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