Despite COVID-19 numbers on the rise in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is requiring sports bettors to register for new accounts in person.
Since August, online registration has been allowed, fueling massive growth. But on Friday, Pritzker ended his executive order, forcing people to visit a retail sportsbook, such as at the Argosy Casino in Alton, Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, or the inside FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing in Collinsville.
Illinois has become the fourth largest betting market in the country, posting over $581 million in handle in January. That was an 18.3% increase from December’s total of over $491 million. As a result, the state’s tax coffers received nearly $7.2 million in receipts.
As sports wagering gets bigger and bigger in generating tax revenues for the state, Joe Boozell, lead writer with PlayIllinois.com, said Pritzker’s decision is a head-scratcher.
“In the past, he has tied vaccination percentages to things opening up and this could be due to that, but I don’t know,” Boozell said.
Boozell said Illinoisans place more than 90 percent of their wagers online each month.
So why not renew the executive order? COVID-19 is no longer a concern for the Pritzker administration when it comes to casinos, a spokeswoman for the administration said.
“Illinois is currently in Phase 4 with vaccination rates rapidly increasing and casinos around the state have reopened with safety guidelines in place, so the suspension of in-person sports betting registration requirements is no longer needed,” Pritzker’s press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh told LegalSportsReport.com.
There were warning signs from the governor on remote signup last summer. Illinois lawmakers included an 18 month in-person signup period for online sports betting accounts in the 2019 law. The provision favored the Rivers Casino while turning a cold shoulder to FanDuel and DraftKings. At the time, neither had a retail presence in the state, but both acquired one last year.
Pritzker temporarily closed casinos in response to the pandemic, making it impossible to sign up. On June 8, he suspended the remote provision, then reversed course in July. Following backlash from Illinois bettors, Pritzker again suspended the requirement on August 21. Since then, he renewed the order on a monthly basis until this past weekend.
“We know that Rivers had lobbied for in-person registration because they have an advantageous location being located close to downtown Chicago, and in a world where nobody can’t sign up with their phones, they were sort of in pole position,” Boozell said.
Although the in-person requirement is good news for the state’s casinos, it is bad timing for Illinois’ newest player in the sports gambling industry. Barstool Sports, with a connection to Hollywood Casino in Aurora, launched its gambling app in March.
Mobile sports betting is currently legal in 14 states and the District of Columbia, with 19 states considering legislation this year to make it legal whether through voter referendum or state legislature statute.
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