Illinois Sports Bettors Steamed About In-Person Registration

In June, due to Covid-19, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (l.) suspended the in-person registration requirement for sports bettors in the state. As of July 27, in-person registration was required once again. The response was fast and furious.

Effective July 27, individuals in Illinois who want to wager on sports are required—once again—to register in person at one of the state’s 10 casinos.

The casinos closed in mid-March due to Covid-19, and on June 4, Governor J.B. Pritzker suspended the in-person requirement, so bettors could register and bet online. But last week, online registration ended.

Reactions from stakeholders were fast and furious, since the announcement came just days after Major League Baseball started its 60-game season, days before the NBA and NHL started their playoffs, and just as PointsBet, FanDuel and DraftKings were getting ready to launch in Illinois.

In addition, the Illinois Gaming Board changed the list of sports bettors may legally wager on, pulling PGA Tour events, NASCAR, Korean baseball and some lower-tier soccer league games.

Global Market Advisors Consultant Brendan Bussmann said, “In another Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde move, the state of Illinois has changed the rules on operators again as they try to move forward with sports betting. The tug of war continues between operators and the political moves they make under the disguise of SARS-CoV-2.

“It is not healthy for a regulatory structure that should allow a regulated, competitive market and the level playing field it needs to compete against the illegal market that continues to reign in Illinois.”

Casinos in Illinois were allowed to reopen on July 1. A total of seven of the state’s 10 casinos have been licensed to offer sports betting in Illinois, but only two—Rivers and the Argosy in Alton–have been provisionally approved to accept wagers.

DraftKings and FanDuel were awarded temporary operating permits in Illinois on July 17, and PointsBet received approval on July 14. Only DraftKings is partnered with a licensed gaming venue—the Casino Queen in East St. Louis, which recently was rebranded as DraftKings at Casino Queen. The deal could allow DraftKings to go live with sports betting as soon as the gaming board extends provisional gaming status to Casino Queen.

Observers said Pritzker’s goal has been to protect Rush Street Interactive, the Illinois-based gaming company that owns Rivers Casino Des Plaines and the BetRivers mobile sports betting app, the only digital sports betting app in the state.

Rush Street and other brick-and-mortar casinos had an 18-month-plus window to establish a foothold in the online/mobile market before DraftKings and FanDuel could go live. Rush Street claimed DraftKings and FanDuel were operating illegal daily fantasy sports platforms in the state—according to a 2015 ruling by the state attorney general–and shouldn’t be allowed to leverage their databases for sports betting. In fact, the Illinois attorney general issued an opinion that both companies were operating illegally in the state.

Just before the in-person registration rule kicked in, to get consumers to register online, BetRivers offered a $250 sign-up bonus and DraftKings offered a $100 sign-up bonus to anyone who pre-registered on its site by the end of Sunday.

Observers naturally wonder why, in the midst of a pandemic when people are encouraged to stay home, sports bettors must risk their health to register in person at a casino.