While both the Illinois Gaming Board and Illinois Racing Board conducted meetings Tuesday that could be described as low key and business as usual, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the state’s 10 casinos would be closed effective Friday as a mitigation measure to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Casinos in Illinois, which re-opened July 1 at 50% capacity after being shut down in mid-March, have been operating at 25% capacity across the state since Oct. 28, with advanced mitigation measures in place. With the state broken into 11 regions for COVID-19 purposes, some casinos had been operating at 25% capacity as early as Oct. 3.
“To stop this spread and preserve some semblance of the holidays, all of us need to do more than just wear our masks now -– though masks are mandatory throughout the state,” Pritzker said in a statement released by the governor’s office. “The simple fact is that COVID-19 is spreading so quickly and so widely, and our hospitals are beginning to experience real strain, and at the current infection rate they will be overwhelmed. So whenever possible, we need you to stay home.
“I’m hopeful that by limiting our in-person interactions, we will succeed at avoiding a stay-at-home order like what we had in the spring -– when the choice between saving lives and saving livelihoods was even more stark. Tier 3 may allow us to do both. Like in other states like Michigan and California and Washington, it’s our best effort to avoid a stay-at-home order and save lives.”
Fruchter hopeful for bigger October handle, explains lag in reporting sports betting numbers
For sports betting in Illinois, the Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet and Argosy Casino Alton will be completely shut down, and they do not have mobile components. Four other casinos — DraftKings at Casino Queen in East St. Louis, Par-A-Dice Casino (FanDuel) in East Peoria, Rivers Casino (BetRivers) in Des Plaines, and Grand Victoria Casino (William Hill) in Elgin — have both retail and mobile operations. Hawthorne Race Course, which commenced mobile sports wagering Sept. 12 through PointsBet and began retail operations Sept. 30, will also be closed for retail operations effective Friday.
During Tuesday’s IGB meeting, Administrator Marcus Fruchter provided a detailed explanation regarding the lag in Illinois reporting its sports betting numbers compared to most of its peers. The IGB did not release the September handle, which totaled about $305 million, until Nov. 13 — the report was eagerly awaited in the industry considering the overall spike in sports betting handles nationwide that provided a glimmer of hope that the cumulative handle for the month would reach $3 billion.
Illinois' recent (but delayed) reporting allowed us to tally up–
In September, 17 states plus D.C. generated nearly $2.9 billion in sports betting handle, a record.
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) November 17, 2020
“By statute, sports wagering taxes are due to the board no later than the last day of the month following the calendar month in which the adjusted gross sports wagering receipts were received and the obligation was approved,” he said, noting this was just the third report released since sports betting went live in March. “What that means is that if the gaming board gets data from operators at the end of the month for the prior month, we then analyze any discrepancies, review the data and put it into a format that can be loaded onto our website.”
Fruchter pointed out that the IGB differentiates the handle into two categories: the traditional handle, which was slightly more than $305 million, and the handle for completed events in the month for tax purposes, which finished just shy of $300 million. Fruchter added that the approximate six-week lag will likely be the norm going forward, and that his staff will be constantly reviewing data and tweaking the reports going forward as “everything we’re looking to change or adjust has to be within the contours and the space we’re afforded by the Illinois Sports Wagering Act and the rules.”
IRB unanimously approves/renews licensees
The Illinois Racing Board unanimously approved the Totalizator license renewals of AM Tote International, United Tote Company, and Sportech at the state’s three tracks for the 2021 racing season. A totalizator shows the number and amount of bets staked on a race to facilitate the division of the total among those backing the winner.
AM Tote serves Fairmount Park and its three off-track betting sites, United Tote Company serves Arlington Park via Churchill Downs Incorporated and its eight OTB sites, and Sportech serves Hawthorne and its 10 OTBs.
The IRB also voted 6-0 to renew the licenses of five companies for Advanced Deposit Wagering for the 2021 season that cover the three racetracks and the renewal of Intertrack Wagering licenses at Fairmount Park, Arlington Park, Hawthorne, and Suburban Downs. There was also a unanimous vote to renew Intertrack Wagering Location licenses for all 21 OTBs that applied.