Governor JB Pritzker of Illinois has once again bailed out the local sports betting industry by extending the remote mobile registration period for sports bettors for the umpteenth time. Per the gambling law that was ratified by the governor at the end of June 2019, sports bettors in the Prairie State must present themselves in person at a retail sports betting location when signing up for a sports betting account.
Even so, that has hardly been a standing requirement since the summer of last year when Governor Pritzker first suspended in-person registrations. Retail sports betting venues had been shut down at that time as a precaution to reduce ‘unnecessary contact’ amid the surging cases of Coronavirus infections. The governor decided to lift the restriction of in-person sign-ups temporarily through an Executive Order as online sports betting was a critical revenue stream that would prevent state coffers from running dry during the economy-strained pandemic period.
Executive Order 2020-41 was first issued by the governor on June 4th and since then the governor has been extending the order again and again. The previous extension of remote registrations was to last until 6th March, but Gov. Pritzker announced last Friday that he will be pushing the expiry date further by another month to 3rd April, citing COVID-19 as was the case since the very first suspension of in-person registration restriction.
Illinois Continues to Tap Into the Potential of Online Sports Betting
Online sports betting is what has been holding the sports betting industry in the Prairie State since the regulated sports betting market went live. Month after month, the online sports betting vertical has consistently been making up about 90% of the total handle meaning that without it, the local industry would have been dead on arrival more so if you factor in the COVID-19 challenge.
Looking at December 2020 for instance when the state collected a record monthly handle of $491.7 million, 94% of the handle came from wagers that were staked online or via a mobile device. This record-shattering handle made Illinois the fourth largest legal sports betting state in the US, only trailing Pennsylvania, Nevada, and New Jersey.
Now, if you consider that the March Madness tournament is starting next week, on Thursday the 18th, it only makes sense that remote registrations should be on the table. Thus, the governor wasn’t about to let the industry miss a money minting opportunity with one of the biggest events of the year for sports bettors, especially since March Madness was canceled last year because of the Coronavirus.
In-Person Registration Was a Temporary Requirement After All
While we're on the subject of remote registrations in Illinois, it is important to understand that even as the governor keeps suspending the requirement, the measure was only a temporary one. According to the state's gaming law, in-person registrations were only to last for 18 months after the launch of the regulated market before the condition is lifted in favor of full-slated sports betting market in terms of how bettors can create their sportsbook accounts.
States like Iowa recently completed their 18-month in-person registration period at the stroke of midnight on 1st January 2021. Like Iowa, Illinois lawmakers had introduced this clause as a necessary precaution to give the local industry enough time to marinate before opening it up completely. Rhode Island was also another US state that was faced with a similar limitation but state legislators decided to do away with the in-person requirement all together through an amendment of the law rather than approach the matter in the executive order style of Illinois.
After the heat of March Madness which will end on 5th April, it is highly unlikely that the governor will once again extend the Executive Order. From April, sports bettors in the state who will not have signed up for accounts will have to do it in person as the remote-registration expiry date nears. So, whether Gov. Pritzker maintains his extension M.O or not, the in-person sign-up requirement in the Prairie State will be a thing of the past by the end of this year.