Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has once again extended mobile sports betting registration, this time until at least March 6.
In-person registration hasn’t been in place since August due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s helped Illinois become the No. 4 sports betting state in the US. The Land of Lincoln posted $449.2 million in November handle, and it could pass Pennsylvania for the No. 3 spot in the next few months.
Pritzker closed Illinois casinos for about two months between November and January, but all have since reopened, to varying degrees.
That’s because the statewide COVID-19 outlook is improving. The case positivity rate is down to 3.4% — it reached 13.2% in mid-November.
While that’s excellent news for Illinoisans, could it mean the (temporary) end of online sports betting registration?
Here’s what we know.
In-person registration was always supposed to end by fall
Had all gone as planned, in-person registration was supposed to last for 18 months.
Since sports betting launched in March, that would put the 18-month mark at September 2021.
We’re about seven months from that date now.
With that said, there are a few reasons to be optimistic that online registration will remain in place.
First, by all accounts, there have been no issues stemming from mobile registration in Illinois. It’s been in place for several months and is generating much more revenue for the state than a return to in-person registration would.
Second, while the COVID-19 outlook is improving in Illinois, requiring people to go to casinos to sign up for sports betting feels a bit. … dare we say, cocky?
New, more transmittable COVID-19 variants could become the dominant strain in the US by March. And while vaccine rollout speed is improving, it would seem irresponsible to require people to go to a casino to sign up for sports betting, given the situation’s fluidity.
Third, BetRivers was always the biggest lobbying proponent of in-person registration. BetRivers just posted $133.2 million in November handle, though, and has established itself as a dominant player in Illinois sports betting.
In other words, in-person registration probably wouldn’t help its business at this point. That wasn’t always true, but it is now.
When are new operators coming to Illinois?
One would think this would be an incentive for new Illinois operators to launch as soon as possible.
It looks like Barstool could be next. Penn National Gaming CEO Jay Snowden said Illinois is its next target and hopes to launch in the Prairie State by March Madness.
The BetMGM app and Unibet should also launch in the first half of 2021.
Illinois has been stuck on five online operators since mid-September. But given the rabid sports betting interest in the state, there should be room for more to thrive.
With that said, DraftKings, BetRivers and FanDuel combined to account for 92% of November handle. Right now, the top-three position is going to be tough to crack.
Still, there is money to be made. And more competition usually bodes well for the consumer.