Busy sports calendar pushes Illinois sportsbooks to record wagers in October

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Having taken more than $840m in wagers in October, Illinois sportsbooks reached a new monthly record for wagering and revenue for the first time since the reinstatement of in-person registration.

The state joined the top 18 legal sports betting markets in the US that — using five weekends of football, the opening of the NBA season, and baseball’s postseason — set a market wagering record in October, according to PlayIllinois.

Retail and online sportsbooks combined to handle $840.4m in wagers in October, shattering the record of $633.6m set in March. Wagers were up 40.9% from $596.5m in September and up 93.4% from $434.6m in October 2020, as betting in October hastened to $27.1m per day from $19.9m per day in the previous month.

Eric Ramsey, analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayIllinois.com, explained: “A calendar with an extra weekend of NFL and college football, the opening of the NBA and NHL seasons, and baseball’s postseason was always going to bring more action than a quieter month. Regardless, a new high highlights the continued strength of Illinois’ market, and it should grow even stronger in the coming months.”

Gross revenue rose 2.9% to $48.3m in October from $47m in October 2020 and up 8.4% from $44.6m in September. October’s revenue still fell short of the record $49.9m in gross revenue set in March. Taxable revenue did reach an all-time high, though, to $52.6m in adjusted gross revenue, yielding $8.5m in state and local taxes.

The record handle and revenue was good news for Illinois’ sportsbooks, which after the return of in-person online registration in April had not reached the highs seen in the months before. Illinois ranked No. 3 in March among all US markets with $633.6m in wagers, behind only New Jersey ($859.6m) and Nevada ($640.8m). 

Illinois still ranked No. 3 in October, but has lost ground to New Jersey ($1.3bn) and Nevada ($1.1bn) — the first two states to surpass $1bn in wagers in a month. 

But with HB 3136 awaiting signature, which would do away with in-person registration early next year, perhaps a $1bn month could soon come to Illinois. 

“The Illinois sports betting market is thriving in spite of the current online registration rules, so it’s exciting to imagine what it will look like when sportsbooks are untethered,” said Joe Boozell, lead analyst for PlayIllinois.com. 

“A surge of new operators will certainly come. And there are an untold number of Illinoisans sitting on the sidelines interested in making a bet through an online sportsbook, but not enough to make a trip to a retail sportsbook to register.” 

October’s growth was a direct result of the month’s busy sports calendar. Five weekends of football, including a Chicago Bears game each weekend, attracted $330.1m in wagers on the sport. That is up from $230.6m in September. The opening of the NBA season, including a hot start by the Chicago Bulls, drove $93.3m in action. Meanwhile, baseball attracted $77.6m in bets, followed by tennis ($53.4m), and soccer ($36.2m).

“The Bears’ struggles are dampening bettor enthusiasm somewhat, but NFL wagering isn’t dictated as much by the success of local teams as other sports,” Ramsey said. “The early success of the Bulls, however, and the short playoff run by the White Sox, were a definite help.” 

Online betting accounted for $803.4m of the wagers in October, or 95.6% of the state’s total handle. DraftKings/Casino Queen led the state with $315.3m in combined online and retail handle, including $308.8m in online wagers. The combined handle was up from $236.5m in September and produced $11.7m in gross revenue.

FanDuel was next with $236.7m in online and retail wagers, including $235.4m in online wagering. The combined handle was up from $156.2m in September and created a market-best $22.3m in gross revenue.

“With only six in the state, Illinois is home to far fewer online sportsbook operators than any other major US market,” Boozell said. “By next year, the number of online operators should grow well into the double-digits. An increase in competition would be hugely beneficial for bettors.”