Bear Down: Executive Order, Pandemic Paves Way For BetRivers Online In Illinois

Posted on June 19, 2020 - Last Updated on June 22, 2020

BetRivers became the first online sportsbook in Illinois on June 18.

Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive operates the sportsbook, so it’s fitting that it would be the first to launch in the state.

BetRivers has been making its presence known recently.

Compared to other sports betting companies like DraftKings and FanDuel, BetRivers is a newer product.

Despite that, the sportsbook is hitting the ground running in states that have recently legalized sports betting. Its digital doors were open for business on day one for betting in Indiana and, more recently, in Colorado.

Online sportsbooks in Illinois will give Indiana’s operators some surprise competition that they weren’t expecting to have to deal with for a while.

Gov. Pritzker allows online betting

BetRivers coming online in Illinois is a direct result of an executive order from Gov. JB Pritzker.

Sports betting started at the state’s retail casinos in early March. Then the COVID-19 pandemic flipped everything on its head.

Casinos throughout the state shut down just days after Rivers Casino Des Plaines took the state’s first legal sports wager. Sports betting barely had a chance to get off the launch pad before the shutdown.

Even though casinos in neighboring states, like Michigan and Indiana, have already reopened, that isn’t the case for the Land of Lincoln. Since there’s no end in sight for the state’s casino shutdowns, that means sports betting would also be off the table for weeks to come.

Gov. Pritzker realized that allowing online betting would give Illinois bettors options while the state sorts out its casino situation.

No more in-person registration in Illinois

Originally, online betting wasn’t going to start in the state until 540 days after retail betting began.

Illinois bettors were going to have to travel to a casino and register for online sportsbooks in person. With most of the casinos located near the state’s borders, that presented a significant inconvenience for potential bettors who would have had to travel long distances just to register at a legal sportsbook.

States like Indiana have avoided that problem by letting residents sign up for sportsbooks online. That makes the process easy for anyone with a smartphone or computer.

Gov. Pritzker’s executive order puts Illinois in the same camp as Indiana when it comes to signing up for an online sportsbook.

Now that the in-person registration requirement and 540 day waiting period have been temporarily suspended by the executive order, online sportsbooks like BetRivers officially have the green light to get things rolling throughout Illinois.

Indiana loses sports betting advantage

The Hoosier State is no longer alone in the world of Midwest sports betting.

Since Indiana was the first state in the region to have legal sports betting, it’s been enjoying its status as the only betting state.

Up until now, it was easy for bettors from neighboring states to place their bets in Indiana. Out-of-state gamblers only had to cross the border into Indiana, and then they could place their bets from their phones using one of Indiana online sportsbooks.

Indiana has been reaping the benefits of those visiting online bettors since October 2019.

Now, at least for Illinois residents, there’s no reason to do that anymore. Why drive to a different state for betting when you can place your wagers from home?

Soon enough Michigan residents will find themselves in the same situation. Indiana’s northern neighbor already has legal sports betting, but only at brick-and-mortar casinos.

Originally, Michigan wasn’t scheduled to have online sports betting until early 2021. However, the state has been working on moving up that timeline.

Ohio could be making big progress toward legalization this summer. However, Kentucky is further behind when it comes to sports betting.

Although BetRivers launching in Illinois marks the beginning of the end for residents traveling to Indiana to place their online bets, the Hoosier State can still pull in that extra business from the other surrounding states, at least for now.

It’s a position that won’t last forever, but Indiana will certainly enjoy the boost to its handle while it’s still there.

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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a US Gambling Industry Analyst for Catena Media. He specializes in Midwest sports betting and casino content. Prior to covering the legal gambling industry, he spent time as a professional sports writer, reporting on teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers. Garza is currently working as a Managing Editor for PlayIndiana and PlayOhio, with previous stops at other well-known brands such as PlayIllinois and PlayMichigan. He has been covering the gambling industry since 2019, and currently works with a team of other journalists to provide comprehensive coverage of the legal U.S. gambling industry.

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