What The Health? New Pritzker Order Leaves Illinois Sports Betting At Risk

Posted on August 10, 2020

Governor JB Pritzker is placing the health of his residents interested in Illinois sports betting at risk by reinstating the in-person signup requirement.

Pritzker issued updated mask requirements throughout the state on Friday. The state reported more than 2,000 new daily coronavirus cases for the first time since May the same day.

Not all of Pritzker’s actions align with his message on public health. After issuing an executive order allowing remote sports betting registration in June, he didn’t renew that directive in late July.

Jordan Abudayyeh, press secretary for Pritzker, offered this statement:

“The Governor issued Executive Order 41 and 44 so sports betting could continue on track amid the pandemic that forced the closure of casinos which made it impossible for players to create sports betting accounts.

“Now that the state has entered phase 4 and casinos have resumed in person business, there is no longer a need to suspend provisions of the law that require in person registration. The Illinois Gaming Board has been in communication with industry and has worked to ensure gaming could continue to generate revenue despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.”

Illinois sports betting allowed remote signup briefly

It seemed like the Illinois sports betting market was getting a big boost in early June.

Pritzker issued an executive order that allowed all sports betting registration to take place online. That formally suspended the in-person requirement, which is in place for at least the first 18 months of the industry by law.

Even with no online sportsbooks operating, the move made sense with casinos closed. Along with that, Pritzker noted some obvious health issues as reasons for the order:

  • “… COVID-19 can spread among people through respiratory transmissions, asymptomatic people can transit [sic] the virus, and there is currently no effective treatment or vaccine …”
  • “… due to the thousands of lives lost to COVID-19 in Illinois, the continued increase of cases, the continued threat of shortages of hospital beds, ER beds, and ventilators, the improved but still insufficient testing capacity, and the financial destruction caused by the virus, I again declared all counties in the State of Illinois as a disaster area …”
  • “… it is necessary and appropriate for the State of Illinois to continue to take immediate and significant measures to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health during the COVID-19 outbreak …”

But Pritzker ended remote registration less than two months later as the state’s coronavirus cases continued to grow, on the day after DraftKings announced its rebrand.

Only BetRivers, which launched its mobile sportsbook two weeks after the order was issued, took full advantage of the order.

Order pulled as DK & FD prepared for Illinois launch

The end of remote registration came just as DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook were readying for an Illinois launch.

Both were licensed to launch operations in July, about a week before the executive order was not renewed by Pritzker. That was a surprise to the industry as FanDuel Group President Kip Levin told LSR the company was proceeding with the expectation in-person registration would remain on hold for the time being.

DraftKings Sportsbook finally did launch its online sportsbook in Illinois last week. PointsBet is expected to launch soon as well at Hawthorne Race Course and three off-track betting facilities.

That means people could be traveling to six facilities throughout the state all just to finish registering their accounts.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases growing once again

Ending the order now, with more platforms launching to create more back-and-forth traffic at casinos, seems to fly in the face of common sense.

Rhode Island, for example, finally legalized remote registration. The Department of Revenue cited less contact between casino visitors and workers as a reason to support the move.

Illinois’ daily coronavirus cases were falling when Pritzker released the order suspending in-person registration. But they turned a bad corner later in June and have continued to climb from there.

Now, with DraftKings launching in East St. Louis, Pritzker is essentially inviting residents from Missouri to visit the casino for the sole purpose of signing up to bet online. Missouri’s coronavirus cases, meanwhile, have seen a significant spike since June as well.

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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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