Fledgling Illinois sports betting market generates record wagers in November

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Illinois online and retail sportsbooks collected more than $450m in wagers in November, setting a fresh record for monthly handle to place fourth among legal sports betting markets in the US. The performance was described as a remarkable ascent for a fledgling market by PlayIllinois, which offers news and analysis of the state’s gaming industry.

Bettors placed a record $451m in wagers in November, according to “approximate” data published by the Illinois Gaming Board. That is up nearly 4% from $434.6m in October. Only New Jersey ($931.6m) and Nevada ($609.4m) — the two oldest legal sports betting markets in the US — and Pennsylvania ($491.9m) generated more in bets during November 2020.

November’s bets produced $41m in adjusted gross revenue for the operators, down slightly from the state record $42.2m in revenue generated in October. Those gains yielded $6m in state taxes.

“Illinois’ success is more than just a large population fueling impressive numbers that dwarf smaller states,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIllinois.com. “Illinois is rivaling markets such as Pennsylvania that are far more mature and just as large, and it’s doing it because the top online sportsbooks in the country are investing heavily in the market and Illinois bettors are responding with an unprecedented fervor.”

Despite a relative leveling from October to November, Illinois’ ascent remains unprecedented. New Jersey did not surpass $450m in monthly handle until its 17th month after launch. It took Pennsylvania even longer, reaching the mark with $462.8m in September 2020, 23 months after launch.

Aside from the suspension of the state’s in-person registration requirements, much of what has fueled the market is interest in regional sports, particularly the Chicago Bears and Notre Dame. But the Bears went 0-4 in the month, and without baseball and the NBA Finals, November offered less to bet on than in October. In addition, retail sportsbooks were shuttered in mid-November because of Covid-related restrictions.

“At this point, it makes sense to adjust our expectations up for the market,” said Joe Boozell, analyst for PlayIllinois.com. “The retail market was shut down in November, and this was the first month since the market really heated up in July that the sports schedule was slower than the month before, and yet sportsbooks still made gains. Such resilience shows that Illinois is maturing more quickly than anyone imagined.”

With retail sportsbooks shuttered for the second half of the month, online sports betting accounted for the vast majority of all bets. Specific operator data was not immediately released.

With only five online operators, Illinois is still home to a relatively short roster of sportsbooks. But Penn National‘s Barstool-branded app, BetMGM, and Unibet are among those that are expected to launch in Illinois in the coming months, which should give the state a boost.

“Remarkably, Illinois has done all this with just a handful of operators and without some of the best-known brands in the industry,” Boozell said. “The gains will continue to attract operators, and could have Illinois poised to challenge even the largest market in the US, so long as the state’s in-person registration requirement remains suspended.”