Illinois suspends in-person mobile registration rule for sports betting

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An important development for sports wagering in the Land of Lincoln may allow customers to place bets on their phones from the comfort of their couches much sooner than expected.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order Thursday afternoon that temporarily lifts rules requiring customers to register in person in order to access online sports betting.

According to the Illinois Sports Wagering Act, signed into law by Pritzker in June of last year, customers must physically sign up at a licensed venue in order to open a mobile wagering account during the first 18 months of the state’s online sports betting market. The regulation was the source of much debate last year, as opponents of the rule didn’t just view the in-person registration requirement as unfair, but also as a serious hurdle to Illinois realizing its full revenue potential.

But after the COVID-19 pandemic effectively shut down sports betting operations across the state in mid-March (ironically on the same week it got the green light), lawmakers have been forced to consider new alternatives. With a lack of clarity in terms of when Illinois casinos will safely re-open to the public, Pritzker’s exectuive order immediately opens up the door for mobile wagering.

Here is the relevant language from the Order:

“During the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamations, the provisions in the Sports Wagering Act, 230 ILCS, 45/25-30 (f), 25-35 (f), and 25-40 (i), requiring in-person creation of a sports wagering account at a facility authorized pursuant to the Act in order to participate in sports wagering offered over the internet or through a mobile application, are suspended.”

With sports expected to return over the summer months, the suspension of the in-person registration requirement means that the state can start to realize a valuable source of revenue via mobile wagering.

“Governor Pritzker’s executive order allows Illinois sports fans to temporarily place wagers from the safety of their own home, protecting a revenue source that is critical as the state begins to recover from the damaging financial impact of COVID-19,” Marcus Fruchter, Administrator of the Illinois Gaming Board, said in a Friday statement. “The Illinois Gaming Board looks forward to welcoming patrons back to casinos when it is safe to do so.”

When asked by BetIndiana News in an interview last week if she sees momentum at the state level towards allowing more mobile betting moving forward as a result of the pandemic, industry consultant and former American Gaming Association senior vice president of public affairs Sara Slane responded: “Yeah, maybe where it was a sticking point with legislators, do I think this is nudging them in the right way to more mobile? Yes. Do I think that it still is an uphill battle? Yes.”

Although the Illinois sports betting law certainly still has its issues, in terms of easy accessibility to mobile wagering, Prizker may have brought the Prairie State to the top of the hill with one fell swoop.

The Illinois Gaming Board has its next meeting scheduled for June 11.

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