This is a big time for legalized sports betting in the United States. With the tragic circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, states across the country are facing significant financial problems and imbalanced state budgets. As a result, we’ve seen states like California and Ohio speed up their sports betting legislation in hopes of an influx of cash to aid with state programs and education.
More states will be turning to sports betting in order to get some much needed capital flowing. In Illinois, a state that has already approved sports betting, Governor JB Pritzker took some drastic measures of his own. Illinois, much like Iowa, adopted sports betting legislation with a requirement that interested bettors had to register in-person in order to get accounts for the websites and the sports betting apps.
On June 5, Pritzker announced that he was going to temporarily suspend the in-person registration requirement. Casino gaming and horse racing have been on hiatus since March 16 when the first round of coronavirus shutdowns came about in Illinois and basically across the United States. Illinois, desperate for money with how badly impacted the Chicagoland metro area was by the outbreak, is going to allow people to bet from the comforts of home in the interest of public safety.
This executive order will remain in place until the Illinois Gaming Board is able to issue a master sports wagering license, which could come as soon as June 11 when the next board meeting takes place.
At the time of the issuance, only two casinos, Rivers Casino in Des Plaines and Argosy Casino in Alton, had provisional approval to take sports wagers in their retail locations. Neither of the operators in Illinois had mobile or online wagering capabilities set up when Pritzker issued the executive order, so now it will be a race against the clock.
Five other properties, the Casino Queen, Grand Victoria Casino, Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino, Hollywood Joliet and Hollywood Aurora, have temporary permits that could be moved to full approval in that same June 11 board meeting. We’ll see how quickly they can get mobile operations up and running when they are approved.
The proclamation has reopened another grey area in the state of Illinois. The sports gambling law featured an 18-month “penalty box” period blocking online-only operators like DraftKings and FanDuel from starting up in the Land of Lincoln. With the apparent legalization of online and mobile wagering, if only temporary, the two most popular sports betting operators in the country now have some more ground to stand on. DraftKings submitted an application for a license in April and FanDuel is attempting to buy Fairmount Park Racetrack near the western border of the state.
The purpose of the in-person registration was two-fold. It would create an enhanced layer of security by forcing those that wanted to bet to validate their identities in person, but it was also to hinder the online-only sportsbooks because their DFS sites were not well-received in Illinois by the former Attorney General Lisa Madigan and they kept pushing their fantasy contests anyway.
It is entirely possible that Pritzker sees the error of the legislature’s ways in forcing the in-person registration during this open period. It would certainly help if residents of Illinois would take advantage of the temporary respite and showcased how much more revenue could be available if users could just sign up and bet from wherever they wanted, so long as they were inside the borders of the state.
If nothing else, as long as the executive order stays in place, residents of Illinois would have a green light to bet on things like the NBA and NHL playoffs and, if we’re lucky enough to get one, the Major League Baseball season. Because there are worries about a second wave of COVID-19 in the upcoming fall and winter, it is also within the realm of possibility that Pritzker’s order stays in place into the NFL and college football seasons.
BetRivers should be the first operator to get up and running with its mobile app and will get a jump start on its chief competitors. That could be a really substantial development in the quest to get in good with the Chicagoland market, especially because many Windy City residents were most familiar with DraftKings through its Indiana partnership at the Ameristar East Casino Resort and also with Caesars from the Horseshoe Hammond property.
BetRivers is available in Indiana and may be familiar to some of the wagering public, but being the first to go live online in Illinois could provide a significant financial boon in a state where a lot of betting dollars are going to be up for grabs.