Here We Go Again: Mobile Sign-Up Decision Looms As Illinois COVID-19 Outlook Remains Steady

Posted on October 7, 2020 - Last Updated on October 13, 2020

It’s that time again, Illinois sports bettors. Will Gov. JB Pritzker extend the mobile registration window come Oct. 17?

Illinois has flip-flopped on the issue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But mobile registration has been permitted since Aug. 21, With the latest handle nearing $140 million, it seems the Illinois sports betting industry is thriving as a result.

The Illinois Gambling Act requires people to register for online sports betting accounts in person. However, because of the pandemic, that rule has only been in effect for a few weeks since June.

Pritzker says his decisions are based on the state’s COVID-19 data. So, let’s take a look at where Illinois stands currently compared to some key dates.

Illinois COVID-19 numbers, overall

On a macro level, Illinois is in a similar situation as it was on Sept. 19, which was the last time Pritzker extended remote registration.

Then, Illinois reported a 3.5% positivity rate and a rolling seven-day, new case average of 1,850. On Oct. 6, the positivity rate was 3.4%, with a rolling seven-day, new case average of 2,001.

So, coronavirus cases are slightly up, but the positivity rate is slightly down.

The seven-day rolling death average, however, is up from 20.14 to 28.43 since Sept. 19.

It’s also worth looking at July 26, the last time Pritzker gave the OK to in-person registration.

Then, the state’s positivity rate was 3.7%. The rolling seven-day, new case average was 1,407. In other words, it’s hard to glean a distinct pattern from the macro numbers.

The governor’s decision, then, might have more to do with specific casinos rather than how the state is doing as a whole.

Region 7 doing better; Region 4 still struggling

Throughout the pandemic, most Illinois casinos have been operating at 50% capacity.

But in mid-September, casinos in two regions — regions 4 and 7 — could only operate at 25% capacity.

That’s because positivity rates in those regions exceeded 8% for at least three straight days during a 14-day stretch.

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) states that “if the positivity rate averages less than or equal to 6.5% over a 14-day period, the region may return to the original Phase 4 guidance.”

Since then, Region 7 has cleared that threshold, and casinos can operate at 50% capacity.

But Region 4, home of DraftKings at Casino Queen and Argosy Casino Alton, is still facing increased mitigation steps.

So if the in-person registration requirement returns, Pritzker would be asking potential DraftKings customers to travel to a casino with strict mitigation measures to sign up, rather than doing so remotely.

Considering that Illinois is the only state in the Midwest that won’t allow high school football, that would seem hard to justify.

Region 1 is also facing increased mitigation measures, but it doesn’t have a casino.

Illinois takes advantage of mobile sports betting

The August revenue numbers displayed the power of mobile sports betting registration.

Illinois recorded $139.8 million in sports betting handle in the month.

September should be even greater since mobile registration was allowed for the entire month.

There were also five online sportsbooks, and the NFL and college football kicked off their seasons.

At the mid-September IGB meeting, administrator Marcus Fruchter said 230,000 sports betting accounts had been created. While most people want to see the remote registration window stay open, Illinois sports bettors have no doubt seized the opportunity.

Somewhat ironically, BetRivers has been the biggest proponent of in-person registration. But thanks to the mobile registration period in June and July, it carved out an enormous market share in August, recording $117.7 million in handle.

Of course, a return to in-person registration would help keep the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel sportsbooks from closing the gap.

Regardless, BetRivers is going to be successful in the Land of Lincoln.

Pritzker’s pending Oct. 17 decision will shape what happens at the present Illinois sportsbooks along with potential new ones.

Photo by Dreamstime.com / Kumpanat Phewphong
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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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