Over the past week, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an Executive Order to allow bettors to create online accounts for sports betting. This Executive Order suspends the need for in-person registration for any sports wagering in the state and is part of the state government’s response to COVID-19 emergency safety restrictions. While a number of states throughout the country are slowly starting to reopen businesses and relax social distancing restrictions, Illinois has no definitive plan to re-open casinos in the immediate future, leaving the future of sports betting in limbo. A number of professional sports leagues have announced their intentions to return to play under new guidelines and in a series of one of a kind competitions. Pritzker’s Executive Order presents Illinois residents with the opportunity to begin betting on sports from the comfort of their own home.
Initial Plans for Illinois Sports Betting
The introduction of legal sports betting in the state of Illinois began a year ago, when state officials passed a bill to grant and approve licenses for sportsbooks. The bill requires bettors to register at casinos, racetracks, or sports facilities in order to legally place wagers on their favorite sports. After signing up in person, bettors may place wagers on mobile applications that are operated by the brick-and-mortar locations where they registered. Since the introduction of the bill, only two casinos have been granted temporary operating permits by the Gaming Board: Rivers and Argosy Casino Alton. However, at this time, neither of these two brick-and-mortar locations have requested approval for online sports wagering. It’s worth noting that Illinois also included a “penalty box” period in their gambling law, which gives casinos 18 months of sports betting before online gaming giants like FanDuel and DraftKings can apply as a sports betting provider.
After much deliberation surrounding the rules and regulations for these perspective sports betting providers, sportsbooks were prepared to officially launch in time for this year’s March Madness tournament. This launch, however, came to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus pandemic. As the threat of the pandemic grew, safety regulations prevented any possibility of bettors registering at brick-and-mortar locations. Of course, these regulations also led to the suspension of collegiate and professional sports on a global scale.
The Return of Sports Betting
Since social distancing regulations and stay-at-home orders were put in place in mid-March, the United States has successfully started to flatten the curve and stymie the spread of coronavirus. During this period, professional sports leagues, including the NHL, NBA, and MLS, have developed and announced their intentions to return to play. All of these plans have resulted in an unprecedented period in which these major sports leagues will be playing throughout the summer, in competitions that will be the first of their kind. The start of these competitions has created the perfect storm for sportsbooks looking to get back into the action.
While the recent Executive Order is a step in the right direction, it does not change the fact that the only legal sports betting options, at the moment, are limited to the brick-and-mortar locations. Officials are hopeful that these casinos can reopen sometime in June, but in the mean time they remain closed indefinitely. Illinois Gaming Board administrator Marcus Fruchter issued an announcement stating that Pritzker’s decision opens the door for online sports betting to become available sooner rather than later. The statement went on to praise the order as an option for protecting a revenue source during a period in which the state is recovering from the financial impact of the pandemic.
The Gaming Board will hold a virtual meeting on Friday, June 11, which will be its first meeting since January 30. Bettors and officials alike hope that this could be a crucial step in launching sports betting in time for Illinoisans to place a wager on their Chicago Blackhawks, when the NHL playoffs kick off later this summer.