A bill that would end the in-person registration requirement for sports betting in Illinois passed both chambers of Illinois’ legislature Thursday. The bill also allows for limited wagering on state college teams and adds the home of the WNBA champions as a sports betting venue.
With the passage of House Bill 3136, in-person registration for Illinois online gambling will be lifted no later than March 5, 2022. Nevada is the only other state that requires in-person registration.
Thursday was the final day of the Assembly’s special veto session. The legislative body will not reconvene until January.
The in-person registration requirement, which was waived by an executive order from Gov. JB Pritzker in June 2020, was reinstated this April as Illinois casinos reopened in response to declining COVID-19 cases.
The Illinois bill, which now heads to Priztker for his signature, also had some other key gambling provisions:
- The bill allows bettors to wager on in-state college teams in person at any of the state’s retail sportsbooks. The bets on the state college teams can only be of the “Tier 1” variety, meaning they are “determined solely by the final score or final outcome” of a contest, and they must be placed pre-game.
- Wintrust Arena can apply to become a sports-betting venue, joining the larger stadiums and arenas that can apply for licenses in Illinois. Wintrust Arena is the home of the 2021 WNBA champion Chicago Sky.
Why Does Illinois Have In-Person Registration?
Without passage of an amendment to Illinois’ gaming law, in-person online sports betting registration could only be lifted after an online-only license is awarded to an operator. Currently, the fee for an operator to acquire one of those licenses is $20 million.
The fee, which was meant to spur competition in the state’s sports betting marketplace, instead drove well-known online operators like DraftKings Sportsbook Illinois and FanDuel Sportsbook Illinois to partner up with land-based casinos and racetracks to gain access to the market.
Online sports betting operators looking to enter the Illinois market will have until Dec. 3 to submit their application to the Illinois Gaming Board. The board then has 90 days to approve licenses, although it has the ability to extend the process beyond that time frame, which is part of the reason for the bill setting a firm day for in-person registration to end.
Lawmakers were concerned the process would extend beyond March Madness, a lucrative event for sportsbooks and the state.
Illinois’ Sports Betting Market Has Thrived So Far
The lack of mobile sports betting registration has done little to hamper interest in wagering in the Land of Lincoln — with Illinois ranking among the top states in the nation for handle during the month of August.
The state’s marketplace pulled in more than $400 million during the month, a sum that ranked third in the nation, behind New Jersey and Nevada.
But the ability to add mobile registration would likely be a boon to the state’s marketplace, allowing more mobile-only operators such as theScore Bet, BetMGM, Unibet and Golden Nugget Online Gaming to establish a presence in the state.