Hip, Hip, Hooray: Illinois Governor Extends Online Sports Betting Registration Window

Written By Joe Boozell on September 18, 2020 - Last Updated on March 2, 2021

The people have been heard.

On Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker announced the extension of the online sports betting registration period once again. Until at least Oct. 17, sports betting customers will be able to sign up at an Illinois online sportsbook on their mobile devices.

The move comes as the Prairie State continues to struggle with COVID-19 cases.

With five online Illinois sportsbooks and plenty of sports happening, it’s a great time to be an Illinois sports bettor.

Hard to justify Illinois’ return to in-person registration

Illinois’ seven-day average of coronavirus-related deaths is above what it was on Aug. 21, when Pritzker last lifted the in-person registration mandate.

The seven-day, rolling-case average is about 97 cases lower now than it was then. But cases have mostly remained steady, and spiked in early September.

Illinois is also the only state in the Midwest that isn’t allowing youth sports. Defending that policy, Pritzker made these bold comments earlier this week:

“To those claiming that putting your child in danger is about personal choice, I say: This is a pandemic. This is a terrible and unprecedented moment in our country. Living together in a free society means neighbors protecting each other so that we can all enjoy freedom and safety.”

Of course, visiting a casino doesn’t present the same risk as playing contact sports. But it would have been tough to justify saying that, and then requiring people to visit a casino to sign up for a sports betting app rather than doing so remotely.

Also, Pritzker asked state agencies to prepare for a “nightmare scenario” of budget cuts earlier this week, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Meanwhile, sports betting generated about $545,000 in state tax revenue in July, which is sure to increase in August and September. Illinois has a financial incentive to maintain mobile sports betting registration.

The winners? Everyone, except maybe BetRivers

The biggest winners here, outside of consumers, are DraftKings and FanDuel sportsbooks.

The two industry titans secured market access in Illinois with downstate casinos. And, if Chicagoans had to drive that far to register, it would have hurt their businesses.

BetRivers Sportsbook has long lobbied for in-person registration.

While that might help its market standing against DraftKings and FanDuel, are we positive that mobile registration is a bad thing for its bottom line?

In July, Illinois sports bettors placed $51.4 million in bets, an impressive figure considering the circumstances. Almost 93% of those wagers were online.

BetRivers had a month-plus head start to register people during June and July, so you can see why it wants to leverage its Des Plaines location.

Yes, it has stiffer online competition. But we’re likely going to see some gaudy revenue reports in the coming months, which wouldn’t have been the case with in-person registration. BetRivers’ market share might be smaller, but the overall pot would be much larger, theoretically.

As of Thursday morning, there were 230,000 registered sports betting accounts in Illinois. There’s clearly plenty of interest in the Land of Lincoln, and as long as mobile registration is around, all five of online sportsbooks in Illinois can compete.

That includes PointsBet and William Hill, which both hit the online market in the past week.

Which Illinois sportsbook is next?

With mobile registration extended, there’s more incentive for operators to join the fray.

Keep an eye on Unibet, which secured market access through Argosy Casino Alton earlier this month. As of now, it should be considered the most likely online sportsbook to launch in Illinois next.

Barstool soft-launched in Pennsylvania this week, and it would have easy Illinois market access since Penn National Gaming owns both Hollywood Casinos. However, things have been quiet on that front.

We haven’t heard anything from the likes of Fox Bet or BetMGM Illinois, but perhaps that will change with a longer mobile registration window.

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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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