10 Days And Counting: Will COVID-19 Surge Keep Illinois Mobile Registration Alive?

Written By Joe Boozell on September 9, 2020 - Last Updated on March 23, 2021

On Aug. 21, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker temporarily lifted the in-person sports betting registration requirement until Sept. 19.

But what happens on Sept. 19?

The Pritzker administration has been tight-lipped on the matter. Since June, Illinois sports bettors have endured toggling back and forth between in-person and mobile registration.

The flip-flopping is COVID-19 related, and Pritzker’s decision should hinge on the state’s situation. We also know that Rush Street Gaming (parent company of BetRivers) has long lobbied for in-person registration and is politically influential.

But if we’re simply going by the latest coronavirus numbers in Illinois, it’s tough to justify a return to the in-person registration mandate.

Seven-day case average at highest point since May

On Sept. 8, Illinois’ rolling seven-day new case average was 2,262.

Until September, that was the highest number of cases since May 24. Perhaps more relevant to the topic at hand is Illinois’ outlook on Aug. 21. The rolling seven-day, new case average was 1,891, almost 400 cases lower than Sept. 8.

For further reference, Pritzker chose not to renew an executive order allowing mobile registration on July 26. Then, the rolling seven-day, new case average was 1,407.

It’s worth noting that some of this is due to increased testing. On July 26, the state’s positivity rate was 3.7%. That number jumped to 4.3% on Aug. 21 and has since trickled down to an even 4% as of Sept. 8.

Numbers of COVID-19-related deaths are essentially flat through this period, though they were lowest in July.

But at best, Illinois’ COVID-19 outlook is about the same now as it was on Aug. 21 if you’re looking at positivity rate and deaths. At worst, one could argue that death spikes lag behind case spikes, and Illinois’ cases are rising.

Illinois’ worst regions have casinos

Right now, Illinois’ most troublesome regions are regions 4 and 7. Those are the Metro East and South Suburban regions, respectively.

DraftKings at Casino Queen and Argosy Casino Alton, who both have retail sportsbooks, lie in Region 4. DraftKings is particularly relevant here, as it has DraftKings mobile sportsbook. And Argosy will eventually have an online offering via Unibet.

Hollywood Casino Joliet and Harrah’s Casino Joliet are in Region 7. The former has a retail sportsbook.

Region 4’s latest reported positivity rate was 9.8%, the highest of any region. Checking in at the second-highest was Region 7 at 7.4%.

As such, the state recently implemented mitigation efforts for those regions. Their casinos are only allowed to have patrons at 25% capacity (50% in the rest of the state). They are also limited to the daily hours of 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The Illinois Gaming Board website reads:

“IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health) will track the positivity rate in Region 4 and Region 7 over a 14-day monitoring period to determine if mitigations can be relaxed, if additional mitigations are required, or if current mitigation should remain in place. If the positivity rate averages less than or equal to 6.5 percent over a 14-day period, the region may return to the original Phase 4 guidance or a modified version as appropriate. If the positivity rate averages between 6.5 percent and 8 percent, the new mitigations will remain in place.”

The statement adds that if the positivity rate averages greater than or equal to 8% after 14 days, “more stringent mitigations will be applied to further reduce spread of the virus.”

If its positivity rate sustains, Region 4 is trending in that direction.

Implications for Illinois sports betting

Whether the mobile registration window is left open, it could have significant ramifications for Illinois sports betting.

If the window closes, the biggest winners are BetRivers and PointsBet sportsbooks.

Rivers Casino is in an ideal location in Des Plaines, while PointsBet has partnered with Hawthorne Racecourse, which would have various registration options around Chicago. PointsBet Sportsbook is expected to launch soon and is probably in a decent spot, either way, considering its lucrative NBC deal and unique betting experience.

The biggest winners in a mobile registration environment are DraftKings at Casino Queen, FanDuel and other new apps that pop up. Oh, and the consumer.

“Ironically, the COVID pandemic over the last six months has sort of shown how ridiculous it is to send people to a physical location for no purpose whatsoever,” Cory Fox, the VP of governmental affairs and product counsel for FanDuel, said. “Just killing the market, but also introducing risk where there doesn’t need to be any.”

These next 10 days, and perhaps beyond, are critical for the state’s gaming landscape.

Photo by AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast
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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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