Illinois Governor JB Pritzker recently announced that the global pandemic emergency regulation that allowed online bettors to register remotely for online sportsbooks will end. That means that now Illinois’ potential new online sports bettors who want in on a slice of the online sports betting action and have not yet registered with one of the sites that are up-and-running in the Land of Lincoln will be required to head into a participating land-based casino to sign-up.
At face value, the Governor’s move seems pitched at getting the state’s economy up-and-running again through the bricks-and-mortar casinos. Whether the move is temporary (like the last time Pritzker reversed course in August 2020 when casinos reopened for a short time until the pandemic reared its ugly head again), or a longer-term strategy is yet to be seen. However, one thing is for certain – online sportsbooks that are set to open in the state of Illinois and currently awaiting their sports betting licenses to be approved like BetMGM, Unibet and theScore Bet – have grounds to be annoyed at best, and at worst, are well within their legal rights to request their licensing application fee returned as they will not be able to operate if approved.
Pritzker’s decision seems to be a little confused as it comes at a time when the global pandemic starts to strike again in the state with numbers on the rise threatening land-based casinos keeping their doors open.
BetMGM decline to comment while Unibet voices their frustration at the Governor’s move
While BetMGM have preferred to keep quiet on the Governor’s move to go back to remote registration, seemingly frustrated that any negative comment may affect the outcome of the license application which has been under consideration since early September 2020, an eternity in online sportsbook terms. Others that have come in since like Barstool Sportsbook are getting what quite correctly is perceived as an unfair ‘leg up’ on competitors.
Meanwhile, Unibet is looking to add an online arm in Illinois to its successful land-based and online sportsbook operations in nearby Indiana. The team at Unibet are perhaps less diplomatic and/or possibly more frustrated than their colleagues at BetMGM, if the level of frustration of the Kindred Group’s (Unibet parent company) General Manager for the U.S, Manuel Stan, is anything to go by;
“This is unfortunate news for Illinois customers as a step in the opposite direction from what we consider an optimal setup – a seamless mobile experience. Based on this, we will re-evaluate our timelines to launch in Illinois.” Stan said.
TheScore Bet is also keeping its mouth shut for the time being at least, and is also looking at an online sportsbook launch in Illinois to back up its operations in Indiana.
Could remote registration be voted down?
While remote registration was running, the state of Illinois quietly crept up to be one of the Top 4 states in the nation in terms of betting handle. Now they are there, it is an absolute certainty that the state’s online sportsbooks will want to stay there.
Whether that it is possible with states right behind Illinois, like Tennessee and Colorado, far more proactive in keeping their online sports betting industries at the cutting edge of change, seems to be up for debate with Governor Pritzker’s backwards step.
Looking at the possibility of Illinois lawmakers making a change, the way the current law stands is that remote registration cannot become full state law until March 2022 at the earliest. With a prospective timeline like that, TheScore Bet, Unibet and BetMGM might not hang around to wait.
We will let you know if the Governor backs down and allows Illinois sports betting to prosper as it deserves.