A proposed amendment to HB 3136 would remove the in-person sports betting registration requirement in Illinois by March 5, 2022. And on Thursday evening, the bill passed in the Illinois Senate.
Now, it must pass in the House by the end of Thursday. The bill also allows for betting on in-state college teams, albeit in person.
As it stands, complete mobile registration can only happen once the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) hands out an online-only sportsbook license. However, there is serious doubt that will happen, as those licenses cost a hefty $20 million apiece and would benefit established market leaders.
Section 25-45, referenced below, details the online-only license trigger. The new amendment reads:
Until issuance of the first license under Section 25-45 or March 5, 2022, whichever occurs first, an individual must create a sports wagering account in person at a facility.
The Illinois Legislature is currently in the midst of a veto session. If there is enough support from lawmakers in the House, it looks like there could be an end in sight for in-person registration in Illinois.
Why is the amendment necessary?
Illinois backed itself into a corner with the way the law was written.
Lawmakers assumed that someone would pony up the $20 million necessary to secure a mobile-only license. The thinking was that DraftKings, FanDuel, etc., would be interested because there was no other way into the market.
Instead, those companies decided to partner with land-based facilities for market access. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker enforced an executive order that waived the need to visit a retail sportsbook to validate an online sports betting account.
For those seven-plus months, DraftKings and FanDuel became the sports betting market leaders in Illinois. They lead all operators in handle and revenue on a monthly basis.
Thus, there is no reason for either operator to bid on an online-only license. Some other gaming operator still might, but between the huge price tag and doing everyone already in the market a huge solid, one can see why it’s not the most enticing proposition.
In-person sportsbook registration was not supposed to be around forever. But if no one bids and there is no legislative fix, it would be around indefinitely.
Hence this is why the amendment is necessary.
The present and future of Illinois sports betting
Despite having in-person registration since early April, the Illinois sports betting market is thriving.
IL consistently finishes third in the US behind New Jersey and Nevada in handle. The Land of Lincoln posted $400.4 million in handle in August.
With online registration, Illinois could usurp Nevada for the second overall spot. It has already happened before, but without a consistent new stream of customers, IL was unable to sustain the progress.
This would also open the door for more sportsbooks to operate in Illinois. We know that BetMGM, Unibet, theScore Bet, Bally Bet, Golden Nugget, and WynnBet are interested. The list likely doesn’t stop there.
A lot is riding on a small amendment to HB 3136. We’ll keep you posted as the story develops.