The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live in 2020 and created a new normal. Everything, from businesses to governments to individuals, has had to change the way we do things and make concessions due to the global pandemic. In Illinois, this includes modifying the sports gambling laws.
In June, Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker issued an order that will now allow sports bettors to set up mobile sports betting accounts remotely. This order is a response to the state’s casinos, racetracks, and stadiums being shut down due to the coronavirus.
Sports Betting in Illinois
This comes as a direct response to the new sports betting laws in the state of Illinois. In 2019, the state passed a law legalizing sports betting in Illinois. The law stated that for the first year and a half after the law took effect, bettors would have to set up their online betting accounts in-person at a land-based Illinois sportsbook.
This was similar to the laws passed in the neighboring states of Indiana and Iowa. The big difference is that those states started opening sportsbooks in the summer of 2019 while Illinois’ efforts were stalled. Political complications delayed sportsbooks opening in Illinois until the spring of 2020.
Sports betting in Illinois was finally set to kick off in early March which coincided perfectly with one of the biggest sports betting events of the year, college basketball’s March Madness. Unfortunately, days before the yearly betting feast was set to start, the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the country. All sports, including the NCAA tournament, were canceled or suspended and on March 13, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) ordered all casinos to close their doors.
The country went into lockdown in mid-March and stayed that way until Summer. Finally, sports started coming back. It started with golf in June followed by the MLS, Major League Baseball, and the NBA and NHL. And, when sports came back, so did sports gambling.
Illinois still had a problem though. The first land-based sportsbook, at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, had only opened on March 9, a week before casinos shut down. The second sportsbook was set to open at The Argosy Casino in Alton, IL on March 16, the day casinos had to shut down by.
This meant that while legal sports betting was back, opening a mobile betting account in person was just not feasible. Even now that casinos in Illinois are back open, there are only two land-based sportsbooks. One is by O’Hare airport and the other near the Missouri border.
Illinois had created a situation whereby they have the means to collect a windfall in revenue – something that is much-needed during the pandemic – but their own regulations boxed them in a corner. This is nothing new to the state which has long been stymied by politics, as witnessed in the fight over a downtown Chicago casino and the restrictions the state placed on online poker.
This time though, the governor has taken matters into his own hands and issued this order that allows bettors to create mobile betting accounts online. The order states that “During the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamations, the provisions in the Sports Wagering Act… requiring in-person creation of a sports wagering account at a facility authorized pursuant to the Act in order to participate in sports wagering offered over the internet or through a mobile application, are suspended.”
How to Bet Online in Illinois
Although this is a step in the right direction, there are still limitations on sports betting that users have to observe in the state of Illinois. Because there were only two licensed sportsbooks in the state before COVID hit, only the operators of those sportsbooks had been granted temporary permits to allow for online registration. These two providers are Rush Street Interactive, the company that runs the Bet Rivers sportsbook at Rivers Casino, and Penn Sports Interactive, the company that runs the sportsbook at The Argosy Casino.
In August 2020, a third casino and online sportsbook joined the mix. On August 5, DraftKings announced a partnership with Casino Queen in East St. Louis, IL. The DraftKings at Casino Queen sportsbook is now open for business which allows them to take advantage of the temporary online registration order.
There are currently four other sports betting outfits listed on the IGB website that has also applied for this temporary online registration permit. These companies are PointsBet, Crown IL Gaming, FanDuel, and American Wagering. The status of these applications is awaiting approval.
One interesting wrinkle in the Illinois sports betting law is that it does allow for standalone sports betting websites to operate and sign-up users in Illinois. The issue is because these standalone sites are not associated with a land-based sportsbook, they have to wait out the 18-month period where mobile sports gambling apps have to be registered in person. This is how DraftKings was able to bypass this rule when it partnered with a land-based casino.
If you are interested in learning more about online sports betting in Illinois and finding out which mobile apps you can currently place bets with, this article from Midwest Sports Fans can guide you in the right direction. It has all the information you need about what apps that are currently associated with casinos and can be registered for online.
The executive order that Governor Pritzker ordered is temporary for now. However, if we have learned one thing from COVID it is that no one knows right now exactly how long these pandemic restrictions and regulations are going to last. If the shutdown and social distancing regulations continue into 2021, the rule may become permanent.
Even if it doesn’t, it should not be a long wait from the time the order is rescinded and the time the 18-month waiting period is up and players can register online anyways. That said, when the order is rescinded, the state may extend the waiting time to give the land-based sportsbooks the leg up they were promised when the law went into effect. Either way, it is something Illinois sports bettors should watch closely.