HomeIllinois Sports Betting NewsIllinois Sports Betting Market Still Growing

Illinois Sports Betting Market Still Growing

The peak of sports betting revenue in Illinois does not yet appear to have arrived, based on betting handle in both September and October.

Image: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The Illinois Gaming Board announced in mid-December that the October handle for Illinois sports betting was a state-record $1.17 billion, topping the $1.08 billion figure of the previous month and producing a 17% jump from the October 2022 figure.

The October handle was topped nationally only by New York and New Jersey.

While gamblers naturally always hope for a successful month, the opposite result leads to a windfall for both sportsbook operators and for taxpayers who thus get an increase in payouts.

Those operators thrived in October, with a “hold” on gambling dollars of a state-record 9.7% leading to an increase of 10% compared to September revenue, and with the $112.7 million in revenue representing a rise of 31% versus October 2022.

The windfall for the Illinois sportsbooks – coming in the same month that the betting handle record also was broken – meant receipt of $16.9 million in tax dollars for the banner month. It also the 2023 tax collected total just past $120 million.

Combined operator revenue, meanwhile, has reached $800 million in 2023, about a 30% increase over the first 10 months of 2022.

Most of the betting for the month took place on professional sports, at $1 billion. Interestingly – and beneficial for the books – barely half of that number $530.7 million – came from “straight-up” bets, compared to $481.7 million in parlays and futures bets.

Parlays, which usually require the two or more legs in the wager to be successful, occasionally produce large payouts. For example, a Christian McCaffrey touchdown on Christmas night for the San Francisco 49ers meant a New Jersey bettor converted a $5 “14-leg” parlay bet into a bonanza prize of $489,373.01.

This particular bettor chose 14 different players to each score a touchdown in their game in Week 16 – and all of them did. But the reason such jackpots get so much publicity is due to their extreme rarity. For instance, this was the largest parlay payout of the year on DraftKings.

Yet a review of a state’s monthly financial reports routinely shows profit margins for the sportsbooks of 15% to 20% (the Illinois figure in October was 18%) on parlays, while traditional wagers against a point spread or an Over/Under point total often produce margins of under 5% in some sports. BetRivers posted a state-best mark of 20.1% hold on parlays in October. FanDuel had a strong 18.5% hold on parlays, but the market leader in this category typically clears the 20% threshold.

Futures bets also are profitable because many are sentimental choices, such as a Detroit Lions fan making a preseason bet of his beloved Detroit Lions at 22-1. Like parlays, those bets tend to be extreme longshots, with mass volumes of losing bets not nearly being matched by the occasional winning wager.

Betting on college sports in Illinois produced a handle of $147.8 million in October – with a higher margin of “straight-up bets” ($101.2 million) versus parlays and future bets ($46.6 million).

The other listed category is “motorsports,” with a mere $890,661 split almost equally between traditional bets and “Tier 2” bets.

Football Still Rules in the Prairie State

One-third of all wagers – $382.5 million – were placed on football games, compared to $119.3 million worth of bets on basketball. Many sports fans might be surprised that tennis bets placed third at $83.2 million.

Baseball’s postseason contests accounted for $79 million in wagers, with $47.1 million bet on soccer, and $31.8 million on hockey, followed by $5.9 million on boxing/mixed martial arts and $3.5 million on golf. All other sports combined for $59.3 million in bets.

The state gaming board separates parlay betting into its own category, and that accounted for the other $348.5 million in wagers and more than half of the total bets placed. Sportsbook operators in the past year have shifted their promotional offers to a heavy focus on parlay enticements, and the efforts clearly have paid off.

DraftKings took the crown for October sports bets, with $426.5 million in wagers. Daily fantasy sports betting rival FanDuel was a competitive second at $399.9 million.

The distant next runnersup were BetRivers ($90.3 million); Caesars ($65.5 million); PointsBet ($49.7 million); and BetMGM ($49.5 million).

Sports betting became legal in Illinois in March 2020, and October 2022 marked the first month of a handle exceeding $1 billion. That milestone now has become almost routine, as October marked the seventh month with just over $1 billion in betting handle.

Rivers Casino Tops in Sports Betting in October

The gaming board seems to give priority in its reporting of sports betting revenue to the state’s 11 casinos and racinos, which is somewhat curious given how relatively tiny those amounts are.

Rivers Casino in Des Plaines’ s first-place betting handle of $11.5 million in October is barely a rounding error in the more than $1 billion worth of wagering that took place in the month in Illinois.

Casino Queen in East St. Louis was next at $7.9 million, followed by Alton Casino ($2.9 million), Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero ($2.5 million), and Hollywood Casino Aurora ($2.4 million) also topping the $2 million betting handle mark.

Southern Illinois Riverboat/Casino Cruises of Metropolis brought up the rear at not even $70,000 in bets made in October.