Basketball fans can rejoice if you live in Illinois. That’s because your state legalized sports betting and you can now place wagers on the Bulls. While that may sound like a lot of fun, it took quite some time for this to happen. Sports betting did not exist in the United States until just two years ago. That is legal sports betting we are referring to here. It dates back to something called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. That was a document that was challenged by lawmakers in New Jersey who prompted the Supreme Court to rule in favor of establishing legal sports betting in the US. The keyword being “legal” as several offshore sportsbooks have been in operation for quite some time but these are technically illegal for US residents to use. What has this got to do with you placing a bet on the Chicago Bulls? Well, let’s take a closer look.
It was the work of New Jersey lawmakers that permitted other US states to legalize sports betting. Where sports betting benefits the state is through a tax that is placed on the daily handle collected by the sportsbooks. This includes both retail brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and online sportsbooks that have been licensed to operate in a given US state. That tax, which varies from state to state, provides additional funding for any number of projects without having to add the extra financial burden on taxpayers. For example, in Illinois, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) collects a 15% tax on sportsbook activity within the state. There are currently 7 brick-and-mortar and 5 mobile/online sportsbooks in the Land of Lincoln. Combined, they recorded a record monthly handle in August 2020 of $139,643,887. That’s an impressive figure when you consider sports betting has only been legal in the state since June of 2019 and sportsbooks didn’t open until 5 months ago (brick-and-mortar) and 2 months ago (mobile/online).
The process of sports betting in Illinois has gone through a couple of hiccups so far, but that can be expected when a new industry is launched. What wasn’t expected was the impact COVID-19 had on everything related to sports. It was barely days after the first retail sportsbook opened in the state when the coronavirus was upgraded to pandemic status. This forced the closure of most any venue where crowds would gather. It also brought a screeching halt to many of the major league sporting events that were underway. The NBA season, which had started on October 22, 2019, and was scheduled to end April 15, 2020, ended up getting suspended on March 11 due to COVID-19 concerns. Teams were well into the season at the time having played between 63 and 67 regular-season games. The league eventually restarted with several pandemic restrictions and managed to host play-offs and finals that ended on October 11, 2020 – just under a year after the season started.
During this time, residents in Illinois seeking to register for their online sports betting accounts were permitted to do so via the internet as a provision to get around the requirement of in-person registration during COVID-19 venue shutdowns. That process came to a halt at one point but was reinstated and then experienced a deadline extension. It all sounds rather bad for sportsbooks but in fact, the situation may have been just what was needed to show that there is enough interest in the state for online sports betting. Although venues have reopened, casinos have many restrictions related to attendance figures, and major sporting facilities either play without spectators in the stands or with very few. This means that for many NBA fans, games would have to be watched at home, and with a mobile device nearby, wagering on the game being watched could be easily done. And that is what happened. Where things go from here into 2021 and beyond is anybody’s guess at this point.
Bulls fans will now have to wait for the start of the 2021 season, but the wait will be a short one as the league has backed it up to December 2020. That could change, and although today we would ordinarily be watching NBA action, because of the strange circumstances that altered the season that just ended this month, it has impacted the beginning of the next one. One thing is for sure, there will be betting lines in place at your favorite sportsbook that you can access and wager upon. In essence, by the time the new NBA season starts, the sportsbooks in Illinois will have had almost a year of operation under their belts (brick-and-mortar, anyway) and the online sportsbooks will have at least half a year of experience.
The Chicago Bulls was founded on January 16, 1966, and joined the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the 1966-67 season. The team saw its greatest success during the 1990s and have one of the NBA’s greatest dynasties. They won six NBA championships between 1991 and 1998 which included two three-year wins. All of those winning teams were led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson and the team is the only one in NBA history to win multiple championships while not losing an NBA Finals series. The Bulls were the first NBA team to win 70 games or more in a season and was the only team with that distinction until the 2015-16 NBA season where the Golden State Warriors also accomplished this feat.
Sports betting was legalized in Illinois and sportsbooks opened in early 2020 but were impacted by COVID-19. That didn’t seem to hurt the interest in the new industry although Chicago Bulls fans had to wait for the league to restart games before being able to bet on them. The next season is already delayed, but the NBA says they plan to play a full season anyway. That’s good news for Bulls’ bettors no matter how you look at it.