March proved to be a record month for Illinois sportsbooks, easily reaching $600m in monthly wagering for the first time and again surpassing Pennsylvania. But as far as Illinois has come, the state’s newfound position as the nation’s No 3 market could be short-lived as in-person registration requirements begin to take hold, said analysts at PlayIllinois.
Spurred by March Madness, betting at Illinois’s retail and online sportsbooks surged to $633.6m in March, up 24.3% from $509.8m in February and easily topping the previous record $581.6m in January. Bettors placed $20.4m per day in the 31 days of March, up from $18.2m per day in February.
March’s high volume produced $49.9m in operator revenue, up 64.6% from $30.3m in February and narrowly topping the record $49.4m in January. The month’s win created $44.3m in taxable revenue, which yielded $6.6m in state taxes and another $493,543 in local taxes.
“March Madness helped deliver a huge month for Illinois, but March is essentially a ‘last hurrah’ for the state’s rapid growth,” said Joe Boozell, analyst for PlayIllinois.com. “Illinois will still be one of the largest US markets because of the population of the state, but it will be difficult to maintain its current status as the US No 3, much less catch Nevada. No matter how appealing a market, there isn’t any easy way to overcome the inconvenience of in-person registration.”
Illinois surpassed Pennsylvania ($560.3m) in monthly handle for the second straight month and gained ground on New Jersey ($859.6m) and Nevada ($641m). In doing so, the state surpassed $3bn ($3.6bn) in lifetime handle.
That stands in stark contrast to March 2020, when Illinois launched retail sportsbooks, taking in $997,739 in bets before a wave of sports cancellations essentially put a hold on sports betting in Illinois until July.
“The growth over the last year has been staggering, making Illinois the quickest to $3bn in US history,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIllinois. “The question now becomes what will happen when the brakes are hit on that growth? Does it alarm lawmakers enough to make a change? Or will Illinois be satisfied with where the sports betting market has been frozen in place?”
The NCAA Tournament was the main driver in March, generating an estimated $176.8m in bets even as bettors were barred from wagering on Illinois and Loyola Chicago. The NBA also drew well, helping to push basketball betting to $365.7m. The previous high for basketball in a month was $256.7m.
Tennis also continues to do especially well in Illinois, hitting $47.2m in wagering, the second-most wagered-on sport.
“Illinois has grown in some unique ways, but the state’s love of basketball has really carried the state over the last few months,” Boozell said. “If the ban on betting on in-state college teams didn’t exist, Illinois would have likely been the No 2 market in the US in March.”
Online wagering accounted for 96.1%, or $609m, of all bets in March. Retail betting generated the remaining $24.6m.
DraftKings/Casino Queen represented 32.2% of the state’s entire handle in March, generating $207.6m in online and retail wagers, up from the operator’s $199.8m handle in February. Nearly $203.9m of March’s bets came online.
FanDuel/Fairmont attracted $195.2m in bets — $194.9m of which came online. BetRivers/Rivers Casino continued to lose pace with the market leaders, generating $95.7m in online betting and $106.9m overall, up from $86.9m in February.
“One of the biggest issues with the return of in-person registration is it puts newly launched operators at a permanent disadvantage,” Welman said. “In one way, Barstool was fortunate to launch when it did, helping them build a foundation. But growth will be difficult for all operators, and especially those that are farther away from the largest population centers.”