Illinois sportsbooks experienced a surge in betting during September thanks to football action, generating nearly $600m in wagers and falling just short of the state record of $633.6m achieved in March.
September’s handle was dampened, however, by an in-person online registration rule that will likely be lifted on March 5, according to PlayIllinois, which tracks the state’s regulated online gaming and sports betting market.
“September will set a US record for legal sports betting, and Illinois was able to meet those expectations,” said Joe Boozell, lead analyst for PlayIllinois.com. “But as strong as September’s results were, in-person registration continues to limit Illinois’ ceiling. Assuming the governor signs the bill that will put an end to the rule on March 5, Illinois will begin breaking through this monthly handle plateau in spring.”
Bettors poured $596.5m in wagers into Illinois retail and online sportsbooks in September, up 95.4% from $305.2m in September 2020 and up 49% from $400.4m in August. September’s handle equates to $19.9m in bets per day, up from $10.2m per day in September 2020 and up from $12.9m over the 31 days of August.
Accordingly, gross revenue rose 279.3% to $44.6m in September from $11.8m in September 2020 and up 36.3% from $32.7m in August. That led to $40m in adjusted gross revenue in September, yielding $6.5m in state and local taxes.
With the first three weekends of the NFL and a full month of college games played in September, football drew $230.6m in wagers, up from just $17.2m in August. Baseball attracted $115.9m in bets, down from $139.6m in August. Tennis ($55.3m) and soccer ($34.3m) also generated significant interest.
“The NFL, and to a lesser extent college football, is irreplaceable in its ability to motivate bettors,” Boozell added. “General interest in football helps Illinois’ sportsbooks overcome the struggles of the Chicago Bears, and the ban on betting on in-state college teams. Plus, sportsbooks continued to capitalize on the playoff run by the White Sox in September.”
Only New Jersey ($1.01bn) and Nevada ($786.7m) attracted more bets during September than Illinois, which surpassed Pennsylvania’s $578.8m.
Since launching legal sports betting in 2020 Illinois has generated $6.5bn in wagers, fourth most among all markets during that time; $508.3m in gross revenue; and $78.3m in state taxes.
“With the end to in-person registration in sight, Illinois’ future is awfully bright again,” said Eric Ramsey, analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayIllinois.com. “It is not difficult to imagine a world where it is again challenging the nation’s largest sports betting markets.”
Online betting accounted for 95.5%, or $569.9m, of the state’s handle in September. DraftKings/Casino Queen topped the state with $236.5m in combined online and retail handle, up from $149.2m in August. That included an Illinois-best $232.1m in online wagers. The operator took in $8m in gross revenue on September’s bets, up from $11.3m in August.
FanDuel was again second with $156.2m in online and retail wagers, up from $111.5m in bets in August. $155m of August’s wagers came online. FanDuel’s combined handle created $18m in gross revenue.
“DraftKings and FanDuel have been the main beneficiaries of Illinois’ relatively small roster of operators, which is still absent some of the nation’s largest operators, including No. 3 BetMGM,” Ramsey said. “Ideally, with the latest changes there will be renewed interest in Illinois from operators.