Analysts for have cited a “perfect storm” in their assessment of Illinois’ latest sports betting returns as the state got off to the fastest start in the history of US legal sports betting. A total of $305.2m in bets in September made the Prairie State the fourth state to surpass $300m in sports bets in a single month and the first to reach the milestone so quickly after launching.

Dustin Gouker, lead analyst at PlayIllinois, said: “Illinois’ launch in July came just as US major sports returned to action, and that may have helped hypercharge the market. Pent-up demand is expected to fuel a new market, but Illinois has been able to capitalize on the additional demand that has been unleashed after sports were shut down this spring. It’s been a perfect storm for sportsbook operators.”

Buoyed by an unprecedented schedule of US major sports in September, a bevy of operator launches and a continuation of remote registration, Illinois established its place as the fourth-largest sports betting market in the US by more than doubling its monthly handle from $140.1m in August.  

The Prairie State reached the mark in just its third month after launch, joining Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania as the only states with a handle of more than $300m in any one month. 

By comparison, New Jersey surpassed $300m for the first time in its sixth month after launch, and in its fourth month after launching online betting, when it tallied $330.7m in November 2018. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, hit $300m in its 13th month after launch, and in its sixth month after launching online betting, when it achieved $316.5m in November 2019.

Illinois’ September handle easily topped Indiana for the first time in September, which itself set a state record with $207.5m in bets for the month, and Colorado, which generated $207.7m.

Pennsylvania, the nation’s third-largest market and the most populous state with full-scale online sports betting, collected $462.8m in September. The Keystone State, home to 12.8m people, offers a strong comparison with Illinois, with its population of about 12.7m.

Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIllinois, stated: “Pennsylvania gives Illinois a nice barometer for how the market is doing, and so far, Illinois is off to a much faster start. The ingredients for Illinois’ rapid expansion have been pretty simple so far: It is a huge market launching under unique circumstances. As long as remote registration continues there will be no single legal market more attractive for operators.”

September’s bets yielded $6.8m in adjusted gross revenue statewide, down from $7.2m in August, resulting in a $1.1m into state coffers. Boosted by the continuation of remote registration, which has been extended through December 12, online bets at the state’s five online sportsbooks accounted for 97%, or $283.1m, of September’s handle.

BetRivers/Rivers Casino, which has dominated the market so far, led the market again with $112.7m in overall handle, including $98.6m online. However, FanDuel and DraftKings both gained ground in their first full month of operation in Illinois. DraftKings/Casino Queen rose to $98.3m in bets, including $95.9m online. FanDuel/Par-A-Dice Casino collected $78.6m in bets, including $78.4m online.

Welman added: “DraftKings and FanDuel will continue to put pressure on BetRivers, which has really taken advantage of its early start in the market. That should be an interesting race to watch over the next few months. The bottom line, though, is that the more top-flight operators that launch, the healthier and more mature the market will become.”