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Illinois Becoming “Woke” on Internet Betting

Photo by Thom Holmes

The Illinois sports betting scene has long been identified as one of the jurisdictions to keep an eye on with regards to the potential popularity of its platform. At the initial time of the sports betting launch in March, many were left to scratch their heads at the decision that forced potential mobile bettors to sign up in-person at a brick-and-mortar facility in order to gain the right to place a bet from the comfort of their homes.

Coronavirus has forced the state to alter their plans however, leading to what may be seen as an awakening for lawmakers when it comes to their mobile betting platform. That said, it has been a bit of a rollercoaster to this point. Just this week Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended an executive order again that allows for people to register remotely for mobile betting apps – for the time being.

There is pressure to succeed in Illinois. From sportsbook operators to state legislators who have coffers to fill with tax revenue to the general public, everyone seems keen to have a successful legal betting platform and a robust mobile wing to maximize its efficiency.

A Little History

It was unfortunate timing for the launch of the Illinois sports betting industry. March wasn’t exactly ideal with COVID-19 closures of casinos and the suspension of nearly every major sports league around the world. At the time, the law was that potential mobile bettors in the state would be required to sign up for mobile betting at a retail facility – many of which just happened to close right around launch-time.

It took until July for Governor Pritzker to see the writing on the wall when he finally wrote an executive order that allowed for remote sign-up for internet betting – for a specified amount of time. That order was eventually allowed to expire but was brought in for the second time. It was scheduled to run out September 19 again but Pritzker extended once again.

Illinois Gaming Board’s Marcus Fruchter said, “Governor Pritzker’s executive order allows Illinois sports fans to temporarily place wagers from the safety of their own home, protecting a revenue source that is critical as the state begins to recover from the damaging financial impact of COVID-19.”

Until the coronavirus issues show signs of slowing down, pressure will be on to maintain such a remote setup procedure.

The Numbers Support a Permanent Change

Mobile betting has been responsible for between 85% and 88% of the impressive handles that some of the most bet-friendly states in America posted in August. In other words, a strong mobile platform is crucial in order for a state to realize their goals, in terms of handle and ultimately tax dollars flowing into their coffers.

Mobile betting has proven popular in Illinois so far. Numbers out of the state have 230,000 bettors having registered so far for mobile betting in the state – mostly by remote means. If in-person registration was the only choice, fears are that only a fraction of those using the platform would exist today.

What’s Next?

There is certainly no shortage of data for Governor Pritzker to draw from when it comes to the benefits of mobile betting and the importance of a mobile sign-up procedure. Nevada, the grand-daddy of the US sports betting scene is one such state that requires a bettor to visit a retail location to gain their right to bet from home. Nevada has fallen behind New Jersey, which has a robust mobile remote sign-up betting platform and is in danger of getting passed by other states as well.

With the recent launches of PointsBet and William Hill, there are now five Illinois online sportsbook apps currently available to players – all of which have had extensive experience with remote sign-ups in other states. For Illinois to realize its lofty goals, something is going to have to change with regards to how bettors are able to access these mobile betting sites. And those changes cannot be temporary.