Remote Registration On Agenda In Illinois Session's Final Days

October 28, 2021
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With an Illinois legislative session set to end on Thursday, an 11th-hour proposal has been put forward to end the state’s cumbersome in-person registration requirement for mobile sports-betting accounts.

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With an Illinois legislative session set to end on Thursday, an 11th-hour proposal has been put forward to end the state’s cumbersome in-person registration requirement for mobile sports-betting accounts.

The Illinois Senate Executive Committee unanimously voted Wednesday afternoon to send an amended version of House Bill 3136 to the Senate floor.

If passed by the full Senate and House, the bill would make several fixes to the state’s 2019 sports wagering law, the most notable of which would allow for remote registration for mobile wagering accounts no later than March 5, 2022.

The in-person registration requirement is currently set to expire when the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) issues the first of three mobile-only sports wagering licenses that were created as part of the state’s 2019 gaming expansion measure that legalized sports betting through casinos, racetracks and major sports facilities.

The deadline for applications to be submitted for the three licenses is December 3, but from that point the timeline becomes murkier, with the IGB able to qualify each applicant over an undefined amount of time, before then having a period of 90 days to identify three winning bidders.

Finally, after that period, there is no defined amount of time for how long the gaming board has to issue a license, and some lawmakers expressed concern Wednesday that process could drag into next summer.

“That would potentially cost the state millions of dollars in revenue, so this bill attempts to rectify that by setting a date certain,” said state Senator Bill Cunningham, the Senate’s point person on gaming.

“I think it’s fair to say there’s a little bit of wiggle room that could delay the opening of remote registration for months into the spring and summer, and the longer that goes, the less revenue that’s going to the state.”

The newly amended bill also incorporates all of the changes that the House already approved in its own gaming bill at the end of the spring legislative session, a bill that itself was approved on the final day of the session but ultimately did not receive a vote in the Senate before lawmakers adjourned.

Among other things, the bill would remove a blanket prohibition on bets being placed on in-state college teams, while expanding the definition of sports facilities that can obtain a sports-betting license to include Wintrust Arena, home of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.

The legislation would also prevent further municipalities from implementing a “push tax” on video gaming terminals, or a one-cent local tax on players for each bet they place, although it would grandfather in more than a dozen municipalities that have already done so.

The in-person registration requirement is the only substantive addition to the package the House sent over in May, but negotiations between leaders from both chambers and both parties are still taking place, Cunningham, a Democrat, said.

“We’re working to achieve some level of agreement so both chambers are in sync,” he said. “Those efforts are ongoing.”

The Senate did not act on the bill before adjourning Wednesday night, so both chambers will have to pass the bill in whatever form it ultimately takes for it to become law before next year’s scheduled session begins, continuing what has become something of a biannual tradition in Illinois of gaming legislation remaining in flux into the very last minutes of sessions.

The key holdout for the remote registration clause has been Rush Street Gaming, which pushed for the restriction in 2019 to prevent companies such as FanDuel and DraftKings from immediately capitalizing on a daily fantasy sports (DFS) player database that Rush Street claimed was ill-gotten as the companies operated in the state despite an advisory opinion from the state attorney general that DFS was a form of gambling.

The closure of casinos during the coronavirus pandemic led to Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker issuing multiple executive orders suspending the in-person registration requirement, allowing any sports-betting operator to register customers remotely for much of June and July 2020, then from late August through April of 2021, when he allowed the order to expire.

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