It’s been just over eight months since Illinois sportsbooks no longer were required to register customers in-person, and the early results have been positive for the state’s wagering market.
According to the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability’s year-to-date sports betting report for the 2022 fiscal year, the state’s market has seen a 66.8% increase in handle, year-over-year, going from $5.106 billion in 2021 to 8.515 billion (through the end of August).
The in-person registration requirement, which was formally revoked March 5, was a remnant of the state’s 2019 sports betting law.
Illinois H.B. 3136, which legalized mobile sportsbook registration, was signed into law in December. The bill also allows limited wagering on in-state college sporting events and added Chicago’s Wintrust Arena (home of the DePaul Blue Demons and the WNBA’s Chicago Sky) to the list of pro sports venues eligible for an onsite sportsbook.
In the ICGFA report, Eric Noggle, who serves as the senior revenue analyst for the commission, lays out the reasoning for why Illinois sportsbooks have seen such an immediate impact from removing the in-person registration requirement.
“The FY 2022 figures benefitted from recent changes to the industry. Originally, State law required online sportsbook registrations for bettors to be completed in-person,” the report reads.
“After temporarily suspending, then reinstating in-person registration twice over the course of FY 2021, Governor [J.B.] Pritzker permanently waived the in-person requirement in March 2022 ahead of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. This has allowed new bettors to enter the sports wagering foray, mostly as mobile customers through sportsbook applications.”
What Analysts, Illinois Sportsbooks Are Saying
The last eight months have shown what the uncapped potential of Illinois sports betting apps can be, according to Brendan Bussmann, who serves as the managing partner for gaming consulting firm B Global.
Bussmann told IllinoisBet.com the state’s previous requirement was onerous for operators and customers alike, preventing many from placing wagers in the first place, while leaving several of the marquee names in the industry out of the market entirely.
“In-person registration has always been an inhibitor to any market’s full potential,” Bussmann said. “We still face it in Nevada today as we leave money on the table with the increasing number of premier sports events. Now that it is gone in Illinois, it has accelerated market access by the consumer.
“The in-person registration was always a questionable impact as it was one of those things that ‘in the name of COVID,’ it was removed. It was about playing politics for a good portion of the initial term of the market."
BetMGM Sportsbook Illinois partnered with East Peoria’s Par-A-Dice Hotel & Casino in January, and launched its mobile app immediately after the in-person restriction was lifted. BetMGM doesn’t operate a retail location in Illinois.
“The removal of in-person registration has made it easier for people to sign up for BetMGM accounts,” BetMGM Sports Trader Christian Cipollini said in an emailed statement to IllinoisBet.com. “We've seen great growth in the state and increased action on the NFL.”
Take August, for instance, as the Land of Lincoln saw a 41.1% handle increase, year-over-year, from $400,359,760 in 2021 to $564,837,409 in 2022.
That kind of yearly increase is what the state can expect going forward, according to Bussmann, as the market gains traction.
“The Illinois market is going to continue to grow as it matures,” Bussmann said. “Operators will continue to see growth as the market develops and now that the in-person registration is gone.”
Where Illinois Sports Betting Goes From Here
It’s not hard to imagine an immediate future, now that NFL betting in Illinois is in full swing and the Chicago Bears are nine games into the year, where the state cracks the $1 billion mark in handle for the first time.
Using the 41.1% year-over-increase seen in August, if Illinois sportsbooks take in a similar increase in October, then the market will see a handle in the ballpark of $1.185 billion (based off October 2021’s total of $840,440,436).
It’s likely not a coincidence Illinois’ largest monthly handle ($971,278,389) was set in March 2022, in the immediate aftermath of the in-person registration requirement ending.
As we await the monthly returns from the Illinois Gaming Board for the NFL regular season months of September and October, Bussmann sees no reason why Illinois should lose ground nationally — as the Land of Lincoln has fast become the No. 2 market for wagering, behind New York.
“The market still has tremendous potential,” Bussmann said. “As you see some of these in-person books take to the market and mobile continues to accelerate and the market will grow as operators continue to compete for market share.”
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