Illinois’ requirement for players to register in person for a mobile sports-betting account will end in time for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March, following a last-minute push by the state legislature Thursday.
On the final day of the legislature’s fall veto session, both the Senate and House voted to approve House Bill 3136, which contains several changes to the state’s gaming law.
Perhaps the most significant is setting a clear sunset date for the state’s in-person registration on March 5, 2022.
Representative Bob Rita, the House’s point person on gaming issues, said the March 5 date is in line with what had been negotiated and conceived when the legislature passed its major gaming expansion bill, including the legalization of sports betting, in 2019.
The bill was designed to lift the in-person requirement upon the granting of the first mobile-only sports-betting licenses, which would take place 18 months after the first license was issued to a casino.
However, legislators from both chambers expressed concern that the slow pace of the Illinois Gaming Board in issuing licenses could stall that process, potentially costing the state millions of dollars in revenue.
“It’s not moving it up at all, it’s at the exact day that was set for those 18 months,” Rita said Thursday. “But, as we know, the gaming board has not been very diligent in processing these licenses.”
“I appreciate everyone’s work on this to abide by what I think we all believed was the original agreement two years ago, which was a carefully negotiated agreement that had a lot of moving parts to it,” added Representative Tim Butler, who serves as the Republican point person in the House on gaming.
In addition to the sunset date for in-person registration, the bill allows land-based retail betting on in-state college teams for a two-year trial period, although bets cannot be placed on individual performances of in-state college athletes.
It also prevents further municipalities from implementing a local one-cent per play “push tax” on bettors at video gaming terminals, although municipalities that have already done so prior to November 1 will be grandfathered in.
The House passed a similar bill on the final day of the regular legislative session in May, but the bill did not receive consideration in the Senate before the session ended.
However, the House bill from the spring did not have the in-person registration sunset date included. The March 5 sunset date was added in a new amendment introduced Wednesday by Senator Bill Cunningham, the Senate’s Democratic point on gaming.
The Senate voted 44-12 Thursday evening to pass the bill, followed several hours later by a 100-11 vote in the House in favor of passage.
The bill will now go to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk for his signature.
Pritzker opened the door for remote registration last year through executive orders temporarily suspending the in-person requirement as casinos were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing companies such as FanDuel and DraftKings to carve out market leadership positions.
He allowed the order to expire in April.
Lifting the requirement will come as a major boost to not only FanDuel and DraftKings, but other significant operators which have been unable to make a dent in the market due to casino locations that are well outside the Chicago market, or that were not able to gain market access before the in-person requirement was reinstated.
Those include BetMGM, which is among several operators that has yet to launch in Illinois, in large part due to the registration requirement, which severely capped any potential earnings.
The move also comes as a blow to Rush Street Interactive, which had consistently championed the in-person requirement as an effort to prevent FanDuel and DraftKings from utilizing customer databases that Rush Street claimed were ill-gotten, after the companies offered daily fantasy sports in the state despite an attorney general’s opinion that argued daily fantasy was a form of gambling.
Rush Street’s Rivers Casino Des Plaines property was also the closest casino to the Chicago market, an advantage that the company used to carve out a consistent third-place position in online market share.