Illinois Gov. Reinstates Mandatory In-Person Registration For Online Sportsbooks

Illinois sports bettors must once again make an in-person visit to a casino to register for an online sports betting account.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker previously suspended the Illinois in-person registration requirement, doing so as part of a Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamations Executive Order on June 4. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with Illinois’ retail casinos shuttered, the order temporarily allowed remote registration for mobile sportsbook accounts.

Late last week, Gov. Pritzker issued a second Executive Order, renewing many of the proclamations from the June order. Gov. Pritzker did not renew the part of the order that suspended the in-person registration requirement for online sports betting, however.

At the time of the second order, BetRivers Sportsbook stood as the only legal online sportsbook available in Illinois. Both DraftKings and FanDuel will soon enter the state’s online sports betting market, however, as both brands hold a temporary gaming permit from the Illinois Gaming Board.

In wake of Gov. Pritzker’s latest order, registering for an online sports betting account will require a physical trip to the retail casino partner of a given online sportsbook app.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging throughout the US, the governor’s decision took many in the Illinois’ sports betting industry by surprise.

Impact Of The In-Person Registration Requirement

BetRivers operates under the license of Rivers Casino Des Plaines, located in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines. Both the casino and the online sportsbook brand are owned by Rush Street Interactive.

DraftKings Sportsbook plans to enter the Illinois market in partnership with Casino Queen, located in East St. Louis. The two entities announced plans in July to rebrand the retail casino as DraftKings at Casino Queen.

The partnership allows DraftKings to circumvent an 18-month delay that Illinois sports betting laws apply to online-only sports betting operators. Potential operators without an ownership stake in an Illinois retail casino must wait until December 2021 to launch an online brand in Illinois.

After the announcement of the new partnership, DraftKings Sportsbook opened up remote registration for its upcoming online sportsbook. The opportunity for Illinois bettors to register remotely for a DraftKings Sportsbook account didn’t last long, however, with Gov. Pritzker’s order going into effect just days later.

Speculation on the motivation behind the governor’s decision is rampant on social media and Illinois news outlets. Barry Rozner, sports columnist for Chicago’s Daily Herald, offered this take in a July 28 column:

“The governor wants you to stay home and be safe, but apparently not if it means letting DraftKings or FanDuel compete with Rivers for sports betting dollars,” Rozner wrote. “The politicians know you’re not going to drive to East St. Louis from the Chicago area so they’re willing to risk your safety and force you into a casino in Des Plaines if it means keeping Rivers in the driver’s seat.”

BetRivers Sportsbook went live in Illinois on June 18. The timing of the launch allowed Illinois bettors to register remotely for a BetRivers account for about six weeks before the second order took effect.

In-Person Registration During The COVID-19 Crisis reached out to the office of Gov. Pritzker and asked about the motivation behind reinstating the in-person registration requirement. Jordan Abudayyeh, spokeswoman for Gov. Pritzker, gave this reply:

“The Governor issued Executive Order 41 and 44 so sports betting could continue on track amid the pandemic that forced the closure of casinos, which made it impossible for players to create sports betting accounts in person,” wrote Abudayyeh in an email response. “Now that the state has entered phase 4 and casinos have resumed in-person business, there is no longer a need to suspend provisions of the law that require in-person registration.”

“The Illinois Gaming Board has been in communication with industry and has worked to ensure gaming could continue to generate revenue despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.”

Abudayyeh did not offer a direct response to a question about the potential health risks associated with requiring in-person registration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retail casinos in Illinois got the green light to reopen July 1.

About the Author

Geoff Fisk

Geoff Fisk is a San Diego-based freelance writer, specializing in the poker and gambling industries. He’s written for numerous platforms and has traveled the globe as a live poker tournament reporter. Geoff’s interests include the legal online poker industry in the U.S. and abroad.