On Thursday, October 28, HB3136 overwhelmingly passed in both the House and Senate in Illinois, presenting new changes to the legal sports betting market in the state. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 44-12 before it moved to the House and was approved 100-11. Illinois initially legalized sports betting as part of a massive capital bill in June 2019, and the first legal sports bet was placed nine months later at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois. However, the landscape of sports betting will be drastically changed if HB3136 gets a signature from Governor J.B. Pritzker, the last step now that both the Senate and House have approved it.
End to In-person Registration
The most significant piece of HB3136 that should have Illinois sports fans excited is the requirement for in-person registration for online sports betting accounts. As things currently stand, Illinois residents (or visitors) must travel to the physical location a sportsbook is tied to register for an account. For example, if you want to register for a DraftKings Sportsbook account, you must do so at the Casino Queen Sportsbook in East St. Louis, Illinois. If you live in Chicago, that process would require a nine or ten-hour round-trip drive to sign up for a sportsbook account with DraftKings.
Of course, the in-person registration rule presents massive challenges both for prospective bettors and for the betting skins hoping to reach as broad an audience as possible. HB3136 and Senate Amendment 2 establish March 5, 2022, to end the in-person registration requirement. While that, unfortunately, misses out on football season, it would be a boon for sportsbooks hoping to generate interest in March Madness, the NCAA’s massive basketball tournament.
Illinois is opening a window for application for an online-only license in six weeks in addition to its current retail sportsbook licenses. The in-person requirement would not extend to whichever betting skin lands this license; however, the price of $20 million plus a $1 million annual renewal fee makes the online-only betting license cost-prohibitive for most sports betting companies. It’s impressive that Illinois is one of four states to surpass a $4 billion sports betting handle despite its convoluted market.
Introduction of In-State College Sports Betting
In addition to the exciting news regarding the in-person registration requirement in Illinois, Senate Amendment 2 to HB3136 also presents the introduction of in-state collegiate sports betting, which has been prohibited since the state’s initial launch. In other words, sports bettors in Illinois, hopeful of betting on local colleges such as Northwestern and the University of Illinois, have been unable to do so. Under Senate Amendment 2, bets on individual player performance would still not be allowed, but bets on the outcome of local collegiate teams would be available.
Sports Betting License for the Chicago Sky
The third central element of HB3136 and Senate Amendment 2 is language indicating the Chicago Sky, the city’s WNBA franchise, would be able to apply for a sports betting license. In Illinois, the initial legislation for sports betting allowed professional sports franchises to purchase sports betting licenses, but the Sky was not included in the initial bill. WinTrust Arena, home to the Sky, would establish a retail sportsbook tied to a mobile sports betting skin. The Chicago Sky recently won the WNBA Championship and could soon have the ability to allow basketball fans to wager on the team at games.