In Mar. 2021, Illinois sent an online casino bill to the state’s House Rules committee. Though that effort stalled, we’ll likely see a similar push in 2023.
One unfortunate feature of the original Internet Gaming Act is a six-month window during which in-person registration would be mandatory for Illinois online casinos. That means bettors would have to travel to their chosen brand’s brick-and-mortar partner to create and fund their accounts.
Requiring bettors to create online accounts in person reduces the number of people willing to do so. It’s easy to create an account on a couch at home. Driving somewhere and waiting in line is a much bigger effort, particularly for those who don’t live close to a casino.
Other states have experimented with in-person registration. Most of them eventually decided to eliminate it.
Iowa’s journey is particularly informative. Its total sports betting handle increased by 43% after eliminating in-person registration.
In-person registration can even be a hassle for retail casino guests. In January, Nevada regulators changed their policies to allow casinos to offer online registration for cashless gambling accounts. For Resorts World, this has eliminated hours-long lines of customers going through identity verification at its casino.
Lessons from Iowa In-Person Registration
Iowa launched its market in Sep. 2019 with in-person registration in place. It then withdrew the policy in Jan. 2021.
The impact of online registration was immediately apparent. That month, Iowa sportsbooks generated $149.5 million in handle, up from almost $105 million in Dec. 2020. That’s a month-to-month increase of 43%.
Betting in 2020 faced significant disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shutdowns. Sports bettors couldn’t leave home to create sportsbook accounts for a few weeks from March to April. When professional and college sports seasons started again, sportsbooks fell into their seasonal patterns. The average monthly handle from Sep. 2020 to Dec. 2020 was about $86.5 million. During the same period this year, the average has been nearly three times that figure.
Some retail casino operators push for in-person registration requirements because they think it will help their business. However, people who want to visit casinos still go. But people who only want to place sports wagers would rather create their accounts online and aren’t necessarily willing to visit casinos to bet on sports regularly.
Significantly, retail handle hasn’t changed much since the introduction of online registration for mobile bettors. In fact, retail sportsbooks saw slightly more handle in the final months of 2021 than they did in those leading up to the change.
Resorts World Remote Registration in Nevada
Nevada has also benefitted from removing some of its in-person registration requirements. In Nov. 2022, Resorts World rolled out its remote registration for cashless casino accounts.
That’s an important milestone. When Resorts World launched cashless payments in the summer of 2021, regulatory requirements meant that guests had to create those accounts in person. That led to lines with wait times measured in hours.
This highlights the logistical challenges of in-person registration. Additional foot traffic may entice new customers to try casino games. But a surge of people can overwhelm in-person registration sites and lead to the long lines that Resorts World experienced.
If Illinois legalizes online casinos, online casino operators will advertise welcome bonuses leading up to the launch. The same companies that currently operate online sportsbooks will also apply for online casino licenses. Those sportsbook companies will have a ready supply of customers to whom they can market their online casinos. Those welcome bonuses and an enthusiastic crowd of bettors could overrun in-person registration sites in Illinois.
Illinois Online Casinos
If Illinois launches online casinos, in-person registration will reduce signups, operator revenue and tax dollars. Some bettors enjoy online gambling enough to stand in line to create an online account. Many more will only create those accounts if they’re as convenient as other apps.
Illinois’ online casino bill hasn’t passed yet. It’s still in its committee in the House, so the bill’s passage is far from guaranteed. However, online sports betting has proven popular in Illinois. Currently, Illinois sports betting produces monthly handles similar to that of Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Both states are on track for over $1.5 billion in gross iGaming revenue for 2022. Illinois could perform at a similar level if legislators pass the 2023 incarnation of the Internet Gaming Act. However, it might take longer for the market to get up to speed if the in-person registration period remains in place.