Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker extended mobile sports betting registration once again on Friday.
This executive order renewal will last until at least Feb. 6. The announcement may feel a bit like Groundhog Day, and based on what we’ve seen, it’s hard to envision a return to in-person registration any time soon.
Online registration has been in effect since August 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In November, Pritzker shut down all 10 Illinois casinos in an effort to contain the virus spread. Illinois’ positivity numbers have improved since then, but they are still troublesome.
Once the Illinois casinos reopen, a return to in-person registration is more plausible. Until then, it is impossible, barring a drastic structural change.
When will Illinois casinos reopen?
Illinois is currently in Tier 3 of its Resurgence Mitigation Plan. In order for Illinois casinos to reopen, it would need to return to Tier 2.
There, casinos could operate at 25% capacity and close no later than 11 p.m.
In order to return to Tier 2, regions must record a COVID-19 positivity rate below 8% for a sustained time period.
As of now, Illinois’ statewide positivity rate is 8.4%. While that’s an improvement of about five points since November, it’s slowly creeping up again after falling to 6.8% on Dec. 27.
But again, once casinos reopen, in-person registration is still far-fetched.
In late August, when Pritzker permitted online sign-ups once again, the positivity rate was less than 5%. And even if we get to that point, it’s still uncertain if we’ll ever return to in-person registration.
The 18-month “penalty box” period expires in fall of 2021 anyway, and online registration appears to be functioning smoothly.
It’s certainly been a boon to the industry, as Illinois recorded $434.6 million in October handle, the No. 4 mark in the US. The November revenue report could surpass $500 million, and the numbers wouldn’t be near that high with in-person registration.
Will new Barstool come to Illinois?
BetMGM, Unibet and Barstool have indicated that they plan to launch in the Land of Lincoln in 2021. As of this writing, BetMGM and Unibet are pending applicants.
Of those three, Unibet is the most likely to launch soonest, as it has no logistical hurdles to overcome. It just needs Illinois Gaming Board approval.
Because online registration figures to be in place for at least several more months, Illinois has to be an attractive market to operators.
COVID-19 offers few silver linings, but one of them is the Illinois sports betting market.