(UPDATES WITH BETMGM OFFICIALLY TAKING WAGERS)
The Illinois mobile sports betting scene is going to get more busy and more crowded just in time for March Madness, as remote registration began midnight Saturday and BetMGM entered the state as its seventh mobile operator.
Technically, there has been a period of remote registration in Illinois previously. Gov. JB Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-41 in the summer of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, which waived the in-person registration requirement in the bill he signed making sports betting legal in 2019. Pritzker issued multiple renewals of that executive order to help mobile sports betting get off the ground, a move that paid off in grand fashion as Illinois established itself as one of the nation’s top five sports betting markets along with New Jersey, New York, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
Illinois has generated more than $8.9 billion in handle from launch in March 2020 through December, with nearly 96% of that via online and mobile wagering.
Pritzker’s last executive order renewal came in March 2021, shortly before Barstool Sportsbook launched mobile operations. After it was allowed to lapse, bettors who have wanted access to their mobile app of choice in Illinois have had to go to its retail sportsbook tether and register for an account. That has affected FanDuel and DraftKings the most in terms of new sign-ups, as bettors interested in those apps would have to travel to Collinsville and East St. Louis, respectively, near the Missouri state line — a five-hour drive for those living in Chicago and the surrounding area.
The Saturday date to start remote registration was set via HB 3136, which was passed during the General Assembly veto session in late October. It is a “neutral” date that conforms to state law regarding the period from when the first retail sports wagering license was issued by the Illinois Gaming Board to when it could issue the first online-only sports wagering license. The set date also gives the IGB flexibility to use legally permitted discretion in extending the 90-day deadline for reviewing and offering online licenses without affecting other components.
At long last, BetMGM enters the Land of Lincoln
🎉 it’s ALL happening https://t.co/HqVEH09oPO
— Joe Ostrowski (@JoeOstrowski) March 4, 2022
For BetMGM, entry into Illinois has been a long time coming, but now the IGB has confirmed it approved the request to begin accepting bets. BetMGM originally submitted its application for a Management Services Provider license in September 2020. Expected to be tethered to Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, it was knocked back in the pecking order by FanDuel via its connection to Boyd Gaming, as the online titan sought to minimize DraftKings’ exclusive window in the state.
BetMGM has a notable mobile Midwestern presence in Michigan, Indiana, and Iowa. Backed by a strong retail presence in Detroit, BetMGM is a very competitive third in the Wolverine State. Since Michigan’s simultaneous multi-operator launch in January 2021, it has generated nearly $940 million handle and $94 million in gross revenue, though more than half of the latter total was gained through promotional play that was credited back to customers’ accounts.
“This launch marks a significant milestone for BetMGM as we enter one of the country’s biggest sports betting markets. We look forward to working with the state of Illinois to bring its passionate sports fans a new, innovative and unique sports betting experience.” – BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt.
In Indiana, BetMGM has been a steady, distant third to DraftKings and FanDuel, totaling more than $600 million handle and $53 million in gross gaming revenue in the past 19 months. In Iowa, it has generated close to $150 million handle and $11.2 million in revenue through 13 months since launch in a state currently with 18 mobile operators.
BetMGM is expected to offer a risk-free bet of up to $1,000 for new Illinois users.
Sign-up offers everywhere you look
— The Center Square (@thecentersquare) March 1, 2022
Every Illinois mobile operator has a sign-up offer for new bettors, who can pre-register their information and then download the app when the clock strikes midnight. Some also have offers for people who already have access to mobile accounts in the state, looking to increase business ahead of the NCAA Tournament — which starts March 15 with the “First Four” games.
March is a big month for sports betting because of the tournament, which plays out over three weeks before the Final Four and championship game in April. Even without wagering allowed on last year’s second-round showdown between Loyola of Chicago and Illinois, $260 million worth of bets still took place on college sporting events last March in Illinois, according to the IGB’s revenue report. Overall basketball handle totaled more than $360 million, more than half the total $633.6 million wagered that month.
PointsBet is offering $100 in free bets for signing up prior to March 5, and bettors would then get two risk-free bets totaling $2,000 after completing remote registration. The two bets are broken up thusly: a maximum $1,500 wager using its “PointsBetting” style and a maximum $500 fixed-odds wager.
PointsBet Chief Marketing Officer Kyle Christensen said remote registration in Illinois was “a long time coming” and “everyone knows the gravity of the moment.” He expressed confidence the Australian-based sportsbook — which launched in New York in January and Pennsylvania last month — will be able to grow its market share in Illinois and is looking to be an industry leader there in the in-game betting space.
“There’s more upside than downside, because we feel we have the best product,” said Christensen, suggesting that being a challenger brand in Illinois plays to PointsBet’s strength as a risk-taker with its product. “Our live betting space evolves the product with our tech stack being in-house. That customer focus helps us increase handle and engagement in the app.”
Christensen added PointsBet will be looking to continue leveraging its relationships with the regional NBC Sports Network in Chicago. It will be offering an alternate viewing experience Monday for the Bulls-76ers game — the regional NBC sports stations in Chicago and Philadelphia will have a wagering-focused telecast with live odds onscreen.
Other sportsbooks’ approach
DraftKings Director of Operations Johnny Avello also struck an optimistic note about the upcoming weekend, commenting that there are plenty of people who did not sign up remotely during the first go-round. DraftKings is offering a free $50 bet with initial deposit (minimum $5) and a 20% deposit match bonus up to $1,000 for new customers.
“When you sign up remotely or any state that comes on board, it takes time,” Avello said when asked about re-approaching the potential customer base in Chicago. “It could take years. Sure, there were some people who signed up, but there were so many more who weren’t able to sign up, so many more that probably weren’t aware that sports betting came to the state.
“I don’t think we really had a full gauge of what the people of Illinois, the type of betting that they do, because of the restrictions, but we’ll have a better gauge when this opens up,” he added.
Caesars may have the most at stake given how it has failed to gain traction in Illinois following its September 2020 entrance as William Hill. It ranks last among the six current mobile operators for overall handle and revenue. It is finally bringing the Caesars rebrand to Illinois, giving existing users a $100 free bet with their first login after migrating their account. It is expected that new bettors can place a risk-free wager of up to $1,100 and get it back in the form of a free bet if they lose.
BetRivers will continue to match new users’ initial deposits up to $250 with a one-time play through, which means bettors would have the ability to begin making withdrawals after placing $250 worth of wagers. FanDuel is offering $100 in free bets for new users who pre-register, and they would then get a risk-free $1,000 bet when remote registration goes live.
Barstool Sportsbook has a risk-free $1,000 bet for new users and is running a promotion for the first 10,000 people to sign up with a promotional code and place a minimum $20 wager on the 76ers-Bulls moneyline with odds longer than -125. Those people would be eligible for $500 in bonus cash if the Bulls win the Eastern Conference and tiered bonuses of $100 and $50 if DeMar DeRozan finishes first or second in the league in scoring.