Record Month For Illinois But Return Of In-Person Registration Is Concerning

March was a record month for Illinois sportsbooks, with monthly wagering exceeding $600 million for the first time and surpassing Pennsylvania for the second time. However, as far as Illinois has come, analysts at PlayIllinois believe the state’s newfound status as the nation’s No. 3 market would be short-lived as in-person registration requirements take hold.

March Madness boosted betting at Illinois’ retail and online sportsbooks to $633.6 million in March, up 24.3 percent from $509.8 million in February and comfortably surpassing the previous high of $581.6 million set in January. In the 31 days of March, bettors placed $20.4 million per day, up from $18.2 million per day in February.

March’s high volume produced $49.9 million in operator sales, up 64.6 percent from $30.3 million in February and just topping the previous high of $49.4 million set in January. The win last month produced $44.3 million in taxable revenue, including $6.6 million in state taxes and $493,543 in local taxes.

March Madness a last ‘hurrah’

Joe Boozell, analyst for PlayIllinois.com said: “March Madness helped deliver a huge month for Illinois, but March is essentially a ‘last hurrah’ for the state’s rapid growth.

“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.” 

For the second month in a row, Illinois exceeded Pennsylvania ($560.3 million) in monthly handle, gaining ground on New Jersey ($859.6 million) and Nevada ($641 million). As a result, the state’s lifetime handle reached $3 billion ($3.6 billion).

This contrasts with March 2020, when Illinois opened retail sportsbooks, bringing in $997,739 in wagers before a wave of sports cancellations effectively put sports betting on hold in Illinois until July.

Making history

Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIllinois said: “The growth over the last year has been staggering, making Illinois the quickest to $3bn in US history.

“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?”

Even though bettors were barred from betting on Illinois and Loyola Chicago, the NCAA Tournament was the key engine in March, producing an estimated $176.8 million in wagers. Basketball betting reached $365.7 million thanks to a strong showing by the NBA. The previous monthly high for basketball was $256.7 million.

Tennis continues to do particularly well in Illinois, with bets totaling $47.2 million, making it the state’s second-most-bet sport.

The love of basketball

“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.”

In March, online wagering accounted for 96.1 percent of all bets, or $609 million. The remaining $24.6 million came from retail gaming.

In March, DraftKings/Casino Queen accounted for 32.2 percent of the state’s total handle, with $207.6 million in online and retail wagers, up from $199.8 million in February. March bets totaled nearly $203.9 million.

$195.2 million was wagered on FanDuel/Fairmont, with $194.9 million of that wagered online. In February, BetRivers/Rivers Casino fell further behind the industry leaders, producing $95.7 million in online betting and $106.9 million overall, up from $86.9 million in February.

Welman added: “One of the biggest issues with the return of in-person registration is it puts newly launched operators at a permanent disadvantage. 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 centres.”