Monday brought good news for fans shopping Illinois sportsbooks, as PGA Tour offerings were restored ahead of this week’s BMW Championship, which is being held just outside of Chicago at Olympia Fields Country Club.
PGA Tour markets were taken off the boards – along with Korean Baseball (KBO) and some NASCAR offerings — in late July when BetRivers at Rivers Casino and Argosy Casino Alton were the only sports betting platforms available in the state. In the interim, only non-PGA Tour events – including World Golf Championship events and the PGA Championship, which is run by the PGA of America – were eligible for wagering.
Since the last PGA Tour event could be bet on in Illinois, the Prairie State has had four other sportsbooks go live – William Hill at Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, DraftKings at Casino Queen in East St. Louis, and Hollywood Casinos at both Aurora and Joliet. Only DraftKings and BetRivers are able to offer mobile sportsbooks at this time.
The BMW Championship is the second event of the FedEx Cup playoffs, with a 70-player field in which all golfers, barring injury or withdrawal, will play all four rounds since there is no cut at this tournament. There will be no spectators at Olympia Fields
Still a mystery why PGA Tour offerings came off the board
The specific reasons for the withdrawal of the PGA Tour offerings — whether it had to do with the event’s field as it was comprised, or pertained to golfers’ professional or amateur status, or any other reason — were never disclosed, and the Illinois Gaming Board offered a vague statement at the time in which the regulatory agency stressed it did not request BetRivers take down the offerings.
“The IGB did not instruct its sports wagering licensees to remove those leagues from their wagering options. However, the Illinois Gaming Board does require all sports wagering licensees to comply with the requirements of the Sports Wagering Act, including the statutory requirement to only offer wagering on professional sports, athletic events, collegiate events, or motor racing events as defined in Rule 1900.120.”
Wasn’t about the 36 hole cut. Had to do with amateurs being granted sponsored exemptions and data providers being careful about compliance. https://t.co/hQG0oyJfCA
— Michael J. Zalewski (@mjzalewski) August 24, 2020
At the IGB’s July 30 meeting, Administrator Marcus Fruchter noted the board had received “39 requests to approve non-statutory events, all received on July 23, 2020,” which was at least three days before the offerings were withdrawn. The rules required a 30-day waiting period before responding to the requests, with the first day for a possible response being Saturday, Aug. 22.
The IGB did not disclose which sportsbook(s) made the requests at the meeting, but Director of Policy Joe Miller said in an e-mail to Sports Handle on Tuesday: “On Saturday, August 22, 2020, Administrator Fruchter granted a number of requests by Argosy Casino Alton to permit wagering on a variety of sports events, including all events organized or sponsored by the PGA.”
In some ways, it is an all’s well that ends well given that bettors can again wager on PGA Tour events. One of the unexpected upshots of the COVID-19 pandemic has been golf emerging as a top market for in-play betting given its pace of play and various combinations of offerings at multiple levels, including a shot-by-shot basis.
“The Illinois Gaming Board today approved additional sporting events for betting, including the PGA tour. At BetRivers.com, we seek to offer our customers the broadest range of events possible,” said Mattias Stetz, COO of Rush Street Interactive, which operates BetRivers.com, in a statement to Sports Handle. “Apart from the PGA tour the gaming board approved all-star games for NFL (pro bowl), NBA, NHL, MLB and a lot of international soccer, basketball and baseball leagues among other things. We look forward to providing our players the chance to take bets on these events.”
Both DraftKings and BetMGM — the latter of which is not live in Illinois — are official betting operators of the PGA Tour.
Hollywood Casinos face COVID-19 mitigation measures
The IGB announced late Monday that Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet, which opened their respective retail sportsbooks for business last Thursday, are subject to increased COVID-19 mitigation measures that included reduced capacity to 25% and operating hours from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. starting at 5 p.m. CDT on Wednesday. Both casinos are approximately one hour’s drive from Chicago and located in Region 7 — which includes Will and Kankakee Counties and had an average positive test rate for the virus at or above 8% the previous three days.
It is the second of the 11 regions across the state in which Gov. J.B. Pritzker has enacted heightened measures. Region 4 in southwestern Illinois, where both DraftKings at Casino Queen and the Argosy Casino Alton are located, have been under the same mitigation measures since Aug. 18, which was less than two weeks after DraftKings launched.
The increased public health measures may have contributed to Pritzker issuing Executive Order 2020-52 last Friday, which restored Executive Order 2020-41 in its entirety through at least Sept. 19, and allows people to register online for mobile sports betting. Executive Order 2020-41, originally issued June 4, suspended the in-person registration provision and was renewed via Executive Order 2020-44 before being allowed to lapse July 24 — restoring in-person registration at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks July 27.
In response to the order’s restoration, allowing DraftKings Sportsbook to welcome Illinoisans to register online for the first time, without a trip to East St. Louis, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins on Monday fired a social media shot at BetRivers, in which he called Rush Street “corrupt idiots” in a since-deleted tweet.
In order for the casinos in those regions to resume Phase 4 of Restore Illinois, the positive test rate average must be 6.5% or lower for 14 days after mitigation measures are introduced. Region 7 reported a seven-day positive test average of 8.3% Monday, while Region 4 reported a 9.4% positive test rate — the 11th day it has been above 8% — and could face more stringent mitigation methods as early as Sept. 2.