Mobile sports betting registration sure was fun while it lasted.
Online registration has been in place since late August 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But on Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker did not renew Executive Order 2020-41, which means bettors in Illinois will now have to visit a retail sportsbook in order to sign up for an online account.
The COVID-19 outlook has improved in Illinois since winter, which surely weighed into the decision. Still, given the fact that the pandemic is not over, it’s a surprising move.
Coronavirus cases are also on the rise in the Land of Lincoln.
This is significant news for existing Illinois sportsbooks, but it’s even more damaging for customers and new operators.
Online registration is critical in acquiring new customers, especially since Illinois’ five original online sportsbooks have been able to remotely register people for several months.
That’s helped Illinois become the No. 4 sports betting market in the US, posting $581.6 million in handle in January. The Illinois market wouldn’t have reached this point in such short order had all gone as planned.
And for what it’s worth, we haven’t heard of any issues arising as a result of mobile registration.
Here’s a deeper look into Pritzker’s decision.
COVID-19 vaccinations ramping up, but cases on the rise
Pritzker ended mobile registration despite an uptick in cases and positivity rate.
The seven-day rolling positivity rate was 4.1% as of Friday. That’s up from 2.4% last month at this time.
For context, Pritzker last reinstated in-person registration in late July, when the state positivity rate hovered around 3%.
He then reversed it in late August when the positivity rate rose to around 4%. Pritzker hadn’t changed course since, until Friday.
What does the future hold?
It’s hard to say with certainty, but provided new variants don’t take hold, the Illinois COVID-19 outlook could be even better in the next few months.
Illinois is currently in the middle of the pack in terms of vaccinating its residents, with eligibility set to expand.
While that’s great news, considering Pritzker’s latest move, we will likely have in-person registration for a while.
The requirement is tied to when Illinois grants an operator an online-only license, which runs for $20 million. The earliest that can happen is January 2022, and considering the steep price, there may be no bidders.
New legislation would likely be needed in order to return to online registration.
A brutal development for Barstool
Barstool just launched in March in Illinois.
Now, Illinoisans will have to visit one of their retail sportsbooks in order to register.
On the plus side, Barstool will have a huge retail presence in Illinois, as it has partnered with Hollywood Casino Aurora, Hollywood Casino Joliet and Argosy Casino Alton.
Still, that retail presence doesn’t compare to being able to register and bet from your couch. Illinoisans consistently place over 90% of their wagers online each month.
With in-person registration in place, Barstool is at a big customer acquisition disadvantage in comparison to other IL operators.
We are also on BetMGM watch, as FanDuel officially transferred its sports betting license to its racetrack.
But assuming BetMGM partners with Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, it would be in an even worse spot than Barstool.
This is yet another sharp turn on the roller coaster that is the IL sports betting market.