Illinois Online Sports Betting Could Be Coming Sooner Than Expected

illinois online sports betting
Photo credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Shutdowns prompted by COVID-19 have taken a toll on the sports betting industry, but, ironically, could now potentially spur a speed up to the arrival of Illinois online sports betting.

Legal sports betting at retail locations formally arrived in Illinois in early March. The launch was short-lived as major professional sports leagues across the globe ceased operations amid the pandemic, along with casinos.

The rollout, which did not incorporate mobile wagering, included an 18-month in-person registration process aimed at initially keeping industry titans such as DraftKings Sportsbook and Fanduel Sportsbook out of the Illinois market due to their continued daily fantasy operation in the state after the state attorney general’s legal opinion said DFS was akin to gambling.

That plan drastically changed, at least in the short term, yesterday when Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker suspended the in-person registration requirement.

Ignited by concerns regarding the logistics of in-person registration as the state slowly phases through its reopening strategy, Pritzker signed an Executive Order 2020-41 on Thursday, immediately suspending the process.

Citing the rapid spread of COVID-19, the prior declaration of Illinois as a disaster area, and ongoing efforts to maintain social distancing efforts, the order temporarily suspends the in-person registration provision. From the order:

THEREFORE, by the powers vested in me as the Governor of the State of Illinois, pursuant to Sections 7(1), 7(2), 7(8), and 7(12) of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, 20 ILCS 3305, I hereby order the following, effective June 4, 2020:

Section 1. During the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamations, the provisions in the Sports Wagering Act, 230 ILCS 45/25-30(f), 25-35(f), and 25-40(i), 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.


What It Means for Illinois Online Sports Betting

So, what does the execution of Pritzker’s executive order mean for Illinois moving forward? It’s a bit unclear.

While some view Executive Order 2020-41 as an opening of the floodgates for mobile wagering moving forward, this remains a temporary measure that is closely woven with the state’s pandemic response.

In theory, this move opens the door for short-term mobile and online play that could later be scaled back. Pritzker could reinstate the in-person requirement as Illinois works its way back to normal operations.

Still, it’s possible this order paves the way for a more immediate, efficient, and a far more lucrative mobile rollout–one that could happen as early as this summer.

It could also possibly pave the way for DraftKings and Fanduel to enter the market much earlier than initially expected.

States such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey which have launched online and mobile betting platforms sans in-person registration requirements have experienced tremendous success. More recently, Colorado, which launched its operation with an unprecedented dearth of sports, has also enjoyed a strong start.

Simply put, this may be a measure that is hard to go back on, particularly if (when) Pritzker and state officials see the obvious upside– more tax revenue, namely.


Return of Sports Could Create Perfect Storm in Illinois

Undoubtedly, initial consumer demand will be substantial as the NBA, NHL, and possibly Major League Baseball work back from stoppages.  These returns, paired with the potential overlap of postponed marquee sporting events like the Kentucky Derby and The Masters, could create a perfect storm of demand.

It could also create a perfect storm that produces a much needed financial boom to a state economy ravaged by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Would Pritzker be willing to punt on such an opportunity? Stay tuned, but at the very least, an expedited path to mobile wagering could be on the horizon in Illinois.

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