An executive order that temporarily allowed remote registration for sports bettors helped Illinois open the door to a remarkable July, even if only two sportsbooks were operating to take advantage.
The Illinois Gaming Board announced Thursday that 230,000 mobile sports betting accounts have been created, a number that would have been a fraction of that with the state’s in-person registration requirement in effect, according to analysts for PlayIllinois, which tracks regulated online and retail gaming in the state. And with the remote registration window once again opened by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, at least until Saturday, new sportsbooks opening, and major sports returning, the difference in the coming months could be in the 10s of millions of dollars.
“We have seen over the past two years that legal jurisdictions with remote registration have a distinct advantage over those states with an in-person registration requirement,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayIllinois.com. “With Illinois’ sizable potential as a market, it could be a difference measure in tens of millions in wagers each month.”
PlayIllinois estimates that the sports betting market in the state will eventually grow to $9 billion to $11 billion in bets annually, but the industry is off to an uneven start amid a pandemic and confusing in-person registration rules that have been on again and off again. Illinois sportsbooks accepted $52.5 million in July wagers, according to official reporting released earlier this week. $51.9 million of July’s handle was generated by BetRivers/Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, with the remainder coming from Argosy Casino Alton.
BetRivers received a significant boost from Gov. Pritzker’s executive order to suspend the state’s in-person registration requirement — which forces a sports bettor to be in the physical presence of a retail sportsbook at time of registration — until July 26.
That suspension was reinstituted on Aug. 26 through at least Saturday, opening the door for a remote registration boom for DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, and William Hill, which have all launched online sportsbooks in Illinois since. But no one is certain if the governor will allow the executive order to lapse this weekend.
“We’re so early in the process in Illinois, but August and September will be particularly telling months,” Gouker said. “Obviously, we expect a surge in action just from a full schedule of major sports. But remote registration widens the market by simply adding a layer of convenience for those in Illinois who don’t live near a retail sportsbook.”
The difference between in-person registration requirements and remote registration can be dramatic. Nowhere is that clearer than in New Jersey and Nevada.
New Jersey — which does not have in-person registration requirements — has overtaken Nevada as the nation’s largest sports betting market, topping Nevada in every month this year and shattering Nevada’s record for monthly handle in August with $668 million in wagers. And from March through July, New Jersey accepted $834.5 million in bets, nearly twice as much as Nevada’s $441.1 million.
“It is a key differentiator and fundamental difference between Nevada and the largest of the newer markets, all of which have benefited from their online products being untethered to in-person registration,” Gouker said. “That has held especially true during the pandemic, when in-person betting has slowed even after reopening from shutdowns.”