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Why can’t Illinois sports bettors wager on in-state college football and basketball?

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If you’ve done any legal sports gambling in Illinois, you may be wondering why BetRivers, FanDuel, DraftKings, PointsBet and William Hill don’t accept bets involving Illinois colleges and universities.

The answer is it’s illegal.

The law spells it out explicitly: "A licensee under this Act may not accept a wager for a sports event involving an Illinois collegiate team.”

While some states place no restrictions when it comes to wagering on college sports, Illinois is not as restrictive as some others.

For example, if the Big Ten basketball tournament is played in Chicago, Illinois gamblers can wager on games that don’t involve in-state schools even though the event is staged here.

When Illinois legislators were hammering out the legalization sports wagering, a group of school athletic directors from around the state expressed concern allowing gambling on in-state colleges and universities would spur point shaving, leaks of sensitive information and other forms of corruption among their unpaid players.

“Gambling on college sports places student-athletes squarely in harm’s way due to individuals seeking to alter the outcome of games or looking to obtain inside information for the purposes of wagering,” the officials wrote to the legislators and Gov. J.B. Pritzker in spring 2019, ahead of legalization that June.

“On any college campus, (athletes) are easy to contact and particularly susceptible to undue influence.”

Although Nevada has allowed wagering on local college sports since 2001, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and Rhode Island are among those to outlaw betting on games involving in-state schools.

“The feeling is that college kids who are amateurs, making no money, may be more tempted to cheat if there’s a big payoff,” said Paul Grimaldi of the Rhode Island Lottery, which oversees sports betting in the state, to the Tribune’s John Keilman last year. "It’s just better to do our best to keep that at bay.

“You also assume the pressure to accept a bribe would be greatest in the locality. It’s going to be very unlikely that someone from California is going to connect with the sixth man on a basketball team to see if he can dribble off his foot in the last seconds of a close game. It’s more likely to come from someone here.”

Not everyone buys that distinction, however.

Said Jake Williams of Sportradar, a company that monitors global betting data for signs of match fixing: “From where I sit, you’re just asking them to bet in a different state or with an illegal bookmaker.”

Some states, such as Indiana, do not prohibit wagering on college sports. Others, including Iowa, restrict only certain kinds of college sports wagers.

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