The PAPSA legislation from 1992 once dominated sports betting in the US, by prohibiting this at a federal level.
However, the US Supreme Court opted to repeal the law in May 2019, equipping states with the autonomy to legalise and regulate sports betting at a local level.
The state of Illinois was one authority to take advantage of this law change, by legalising both in-person and remote sports betting for residents. You can learn more about Illinois’ online gambling sites at online-gambling.com, but how exactly have iGaming laws changed in the state of late?
Legalising Sports Betting in Illinois
After an ongoing and seemingly endless negotiation process, Illinois lawmakers finally pushed its legal sports betting bill (SB 960) through the state legislature on June 3rd, 2019.
This was part of a far larger capital bill, which was more than 900 pages in length and incorporated provisions for legal sports betting as the new legislation was being finalised.
It was nine months later (ironically on the eve of the Covid-19 inspired shutdown) when the first legal bet was placed in Illinois, at the Rush Street Interactive owned Rivers Casino.
However, it hasn’t all been plain-sailing for sports betting in the state, with brick-and-mortar casinos apparently concerned that the decision to legalise sportsbooks and mobile betting apps would see their market share diminish.
To assuage some of these fears, the bill required bettors to physically visit the land-based casino offering a specific app to sign a register.
This directly targeted virtual sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel directly, and these platforms responded by immediately entering into partnerships with casinos and racetracks to retain a viable market share.
The issue here is that these partnerships have been largely made with downstate venues, which are miles away from Chicago and the vast majority of the state population.
When is This Provision Likely to End?
Throughout the pandemic, Democratic Governor Jay Robert Pritzker has ended and restarted the provision on multiple occasions.
After initially being created in June to coincide with the return of major sporting events across the globe, Pritzker swiftly ended the measure in July when land-based casinos reopened.
Surprisingly, he then changed course once again in late August, after surging Covid-19 cases saw the state reduce casino opening hours as a way of combating rising infections rates.
Currently, gamblers who want to bet using their smartphones but don’t have the requisite apps to do so will need to travel to the participating casino first, while the in-person requirement is likely to be in effect until a mobile-only operator is selected (the earliest this can happen is 2022).
Interestingly, the statistics appear to show that land-based operators were right to showcase their concern, as the periods during which Pritzker lifted the restrictions saw DraftKings and FanDuel dominate the marketplace.
In January alone, these two entities owned a combined 72% market share, while the split is much more even when the in-person regulation is enforced.
Of course, DraftKings and FanDuel are increasingly angry about the status quo, particularly when you consider their lack of partnerships with the major casinos and betting organisations in Chicago.
Not only is this deemed as an overly oppressive and unfair mandate, but it’s claimed that the measure may also be impacting on market growth statewide.
After all, these two sportsbooks are hamstrung by a relative inability to register new bettors easily, while the in-person mandate may also be deterring certain demographics from acting on their interest in sports betting (especially against the backdrop of the coronavirus).
How Will the Market Look Going Forward?
The market landscape is definitely somewhat complex at present, with the resistance to mobile-only sports betting indicative of the conflict that has raged throughout the North American gambling industry for more than two decades.
However, it’s apparent that the in-person mandate remains a punitive measure, and one that will only really impact on the typical consumer experience and market growth over time.
After all, it’s little more than a bump in the road for FanDuel and DraftKings, who have seen their enterprises grow exponentially as a raft of US states have moved to fully legalise sports betting.
They’ve also been quick to offer lucrative incentives to players who register during periods where the in-person requirement has been lifted, enabling them to optimise online traffic and fortify their positions in the market.
Not only this, but Tom Swoik, the executive director for the Illinois Casino Gambling Association, has been quoted as saying that “the majority of my members want mobile-only registration”, and this type of demand is likely to become irresistible over time.
This makes it almost certain that mobile-only betting will only reign supreme in the Illinois market, potentially forcing larger, Chicago-based casinos to join forces with the state’s leading virtual players.