Illinois Governor Fails to Renew Suspension of In-Person Sports Betting Account Registration Mandate

  • Bettors will have to create mobile accounts in person starting Sunday
  • Illinois betting regulations require in-person registration for the first 18 months
  • Governor J.B. Pritzker suspended the requirement during pandemic shutdowns
  • With at-home registration, Illinois has become one of the country’s biggest sports betting states
Ernie Banks statue at Wrigley Field
Starting Sunday, sports bettors in Illinois will have to register new wagering accounts at a retail sportsbook after Governor J.B. Pritzker failed to renew the suspension of the in-person mandate. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Executive order not renewed

In a move that has surprised sports fans and gaming industry insiders, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker will apparently allow an executive order that permitted remote sports betting account registration to expire. The state government posted a list of renewed orders Friday afternoon and, unlike in previous months, Executive Order 2020-41 was nowhere to be found.

have to register in person at a brick-and-mortar sportsbook

Anyone who has already created a sports wagering account with one of the sites currently up and running in Illinois will still be able to place bets as normal. Those who have not when the clock strikes midnight on April 4, however, will have to register in person at a brick-and-mortar sportsbook.

There are worse times for this to happen for Illinois bettors – football season is over, after all – but the new Major League Baseball season will be in the midst of its first weekend and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, always a favorite of bettors, heads to its championship game on Monday. The NBA playoffs are also just around the corner.

Rule targeted DraftKings and FanDuel

Illinois legalized sports betting in 2019, but to protect its land-based casinos and punish online-only operators DraftKings and FanDuel, the law included a rule which required customers to register their mobile accounts in person for the first 18 months.

Since then, both DraftKings and FanDuel have established retail sportsbooks in Illinois. DraftKings partnered with Casino Queen in East Saint Louis in June 2020. Later that summer, the casino rebranded altogether, changing its name to DraftKings at Casino Queen. In August, FanDuel announced a partnership with Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria.

Legal sports betting launched in early March 2020, but the timing was terrible, as COVID-19 shutdowns began just days later. It took a while, but on June 4, 2020, Governor Pritzker signed the executive order suspending the in-person registration mandate, citing “social distancing requirements put in place to protect public health, and because existing licensed casino gambling facilities authorized pursuant to the Sports Wagering Act have been closed to the public since March 16, 2020.”

Pritzker reinstated the in-person requirement in late July, but under pressure from the betting public, he suspended it again in late August. Since then, he has renewed the executive order every month until now.

Just when things were going great

The state’s sports betting industry could suffer a sizeable body blow should the in-person requirement remain in place for the duration of its prescribed term. If Governor Pritzker does not renew the order, customers would have to travel to a casino just to signup – and many people are nowhere close to one – until January 2022.

Once Pritzker removed the cuffs from sports bettors in June, wagering numbers soared, helped greatly by the addition of more online sportsbooks. The $581m in handle in January (total dollars bet) was a record for Illinois, putting it fourth in monthly handle in the US behind only New Jersey, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. Operators generated $49.4m in revenue from that handle and the state raked in $7.2m in taxes.

fear that it could push state residents to offshore or unlicensed sportsbooks

Not only do opponents of the in-person registration mandate believe it is just illogical and unnecessarily punitive to both customers and operators, but they also fear that it could push state residents to offshore or unlicensed sportsbooks. If someone wants to place a bet, but can’t – or won’t – travel to a casino to signup, they very well might try a black market site that is more than happy to take their money.