Illinois Governor Reinstates In-Person Sports Betting Registration

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker chose not to renew an executive order allowing state sports fans to register remotely to gain access to digital wagering options, meaning that the original in-person registration requirement has now been reinstated.

Under the state’s gambling law, which Gov. Pritzker signed in the summer of 2019, bettors are required to complete an in-person registration process at a local casino before they can place wagers on a mobile app.

However, the state’s top official waived that provision in June 2020 with Executive Order 2020-41, enabling Illinois residents to open a betting account on their smartphones without having to visit a brick-and-mortar facility.

The state’s casinos were all closed at the time as the Covid-19 pandemic was at its first peak. Gov. Pritzker let the order lapse in July, but reinstated it in August following pressure from locally licensed wagering operators. The Governor renewed the order nine times before this past Friday when he left it out of its latest update to his ongoing disaster proclamation that contains measures aiming to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The in-person registration requirement was thus reinstated on Sunday and bettors now need to drive to a land-based casino to sign up with their preferred wagering app and lay bets with it.

Executive Order Was Instrumental to Sports Betting Boom

A spokeswoman for Gov. Pritzker said that the state is “currently in phase four 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.”

However, while vaccinations have been progressing at a good pace, new cases have also been on the rise in Illinois over the past three weeks. And experts note that under 18% of all state residents are fully immunized.

The temporary elimination of the in-person registration requirement really helped Illinois’ sports betting market pick up quickly. The state’s first retail sportsbook opened doors in March 2020, but it only operated for a week before Gov. Pritzker ordered the closure of the state’s ten casinos as part of a package of measures aiming to contain the coronavirus.

In the months after June when the in-person registration was first scrapped, five operators launched digital betting services. A sixth one joined them not long ago.

The state’s legal sportsbooks, both land-based and online ones, collective took nearly $2.5 billion in bets between March 2020 and February 2021. Mobile wagers accounted for approximately 96% of the bulk.

It should also be noted that the state’s land-based gambling facilities stayed closed between March and July and then were once again ordered to close in mid-November. They reopened early this year at 50% capacity.

The return of in-person registration has rekindled concerns about the requirement’s impact on the growth of the local betting market.

Commenting on the matter, Rep. Mike Zalewski, a key figure in the legalization of athletic gambling in Illinois, said that “without the in-person registration requirement, sports betting would have never been legalized in 2019.”

However, he noted that the strong handle and revenue figures suggest that Illinois “should have a robust online marketplace with no restrictions” and that he hopes they can “continue to modify the law and keep Illinois one of the most successful sports betting states in the country.”

Source: Pritzker closes book on mobile sports betting registration, Chicago Sun-Times, April 2

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