Not On Par: Why Bettors Can’t Wager On Golf At Illinois Sportsbooks

Posted on August 19, 2020 - Last Updated on September 16, 2020

As of now, Illinoisans can’t register for sports betting on a mobile device or bet on PGA Tour events. Sports betting is legal in Illinois, but its rollout has been disappointing.

What’s going on with Illinois golf betting?

In late July, BetRivers, the only live mobile sportsbook at the time, took down PGA Tour, NASCAR and KBO lines. The PGA Tour was most curious, as it was extremely popular among Illinois bettors sans traditional sporting events.

But because of how the state’s gaming bill is written, there are integrity concerns with PGA Tour betting.

If a player misses the cut, their expenses toward the event will exceed their compensation. That’s a no-no in the current Illinois sports betting law. As far-fetched as it may seem, the apparent fear is that players could purposely miss the cut in order to win outside betting money.

It also might extend to players who only win a small share of the purse on a given weekend. That’s where we have to get into the weeds.

Could a player’s flight, training and caddie expenses exceed tournament compensation, even if he or she wins some money? Possibly, which creates a whole different logistical mess.

Right now, that would be on the sportsbooks to sort out. BetRivers, DraftKings at Casino Queen and William Hill at Grand Victoria are all live, as is the Argosy Casino Alton.

Illinois golf betting may return

Is a resolution imminent? Probably, which is good news.

Illinois sportsbooks on July 23 requested that golf betting be reinstated, but the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) must wait 30 days before responding.

The BMW Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club starts on Aug. 27, which could coincide with golf’s return to the Illinois books. Olympia Fields is a southern suburb of Chicago.

And while the PGA Championship was only offered sporadically in the state, the final two majors on the schedule this fall the US Open and The Masters should be available to sports bettors. The Open Championship won’t take place in 2020.

More coronavirus headaches in Illinois

While the lack of golf options is irritating, the biggest story in Illinois sports betting remains the in-person registration requirement, even as COVID-19 numbers are rising.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker briefly suspended the in-person registration requirement early in the summer but did not extend his executive order in late July.

Now, bettors are required to visit an Illinois casino in order to register for online sports betting. That gives BetRivers (located in Chicago suburb Des Plaines) a big leg up on DraftKings (East St. Louis). BetRivers was also live during the brief mobile registration period, whereas DraftKings wasn’t.

COVID-19 cases climb in Metro East

William Hill and Argosy are retail-only, as of now.

Here’s a look at the latest COVID-19 positivity rates, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. East St. Louis falls into — that’s right — Region 4.

Because Region 4 has recorded three straight days of a positivity rate higher than 8%, Pritzker implemented mitigation efforts that went into effect Aug. 18. Pritzker said in a statement:

“Working with local officials in the Metro East region and across the border in St. Louis, we are implementing stricter mitigations that account for the unique factors in this region. Dr. (Ngozi) Ezike and I are imploring local leaders and residents alike: If you haven’t been taking (the coronavirus) seriously yet, now is the time to start.”

Admittedly, the restrictions are minor.

Along with limited capacity, restaurants, bars — including casinos — within Region 4 must close by 11 p.m. It’s curious that Chicagoans still have to drive into a COVID-19 hot zone to register for online sports betting rather than simply signing up from their residence.

To summarize: If you’re a Chicagoland bettor who wanted to put some action on the Wyndham Championship at DraftKings this past weekend, we send our condolences.

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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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