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Any doubts or worries Illinois would not obtain success initiating sports wagering within the state have been quickly erased.
Last Friday the state’s gaming board released its wagering totals for September. The report reflected an impressive handle of $305.2 million. That figure quickly establishes Illinois as the fourth largest sports betting state in the US, trailing longer-established states including New Jersey, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
Like all legalized US states, Illinois enjoyed the boost in September with the unusual occurrence of all four major sports on the board simultaneously. Still, the month was quite impressive, indicated a significant increase from $140 million in August. Land-based sportsbooks accounted for $22.1m of the state’s total handle and $1.5m of Illinois’ revenue. Bettors in the state contributed $283m via online wagering but these bets only managed to generate $5.4m in revenue for licensed operators.
BetRivers, was the first of Illinois’ operators, celebrating their opening retail sportsbook in March and then launching online in June. They took $112.7 million overall in bets, with $98.6 million of that accomplished online.
DraftKings sportsbook at Casino Queen Alton, which went online in early August, received $95.9 million of its $98.3 million handles online. FanDuel’s Sportsbook at Boyd Gaming’s Par-A-Dice Casino, which also launched at the end of August, reported a handle of $78.6 million. Their total indicated all but about $200,000 of that figure wagered online. Revenue for the month was reported as negative.
Hawthorne Racecourse with its sports betting partner PointsBet followed close behind after generating $166,000 in sports betting revenue. The Argosy Casino Alton completed the list with $161,000 in revenue.
By individual sports, predictably football proved to be the most popular, bringing in $91.4m in bets while generating $2.7m in revenue for operators. Baseball was next with $65.8m in the handle and $1.7m in revenue.
Although an impressive $305.2m was wagered during the month, a small portion of revenue was generated. All eight of Illinois’ online and retail sportsbooks reported total adjusted gross revenues of only $6.8 million.
The state’s 15 percent tax on sports wagering provides the state about $1 million. Breaking down the revenues, $4.1 million was generated in Chicago’s Cook County, which will receive slightly more than $82,000 in taxes.
As experienced by all US states beginning sports wagering, a disappointing small revenue figure is likely a product of initial bonuses sportsbooks offer customers for registering accounts, making first deposits, or special promotional opportunities.
Illinois lawmaker policy got off to an unpopular start with new sports bettors within the state when it was first ruled, they must register in-person for mobile accounts. By policy, if customers wanted to use a particular app online, they would first have to physically travel onsite to the casino itself to sign-up.
The COVID-19 pandemic enabled Gov. J.B. Pritzker to waive the in-person requirement. He first made the decision in June, and after letting a lapse in late July, reissued the order again in August. That meant, for example, instead of having to go to East St. Louis or Peoria to start betting with DraftKings Sportsbook or FanDuel, bettors across the state could remain home and sign-up online.
The COVID-19 mandate is an emergency order. Pritzker must reissue it every month, as he did last Friday for the month of December. The extension comes as all Illinois casinos are under restrictions limiting their hours of operation due to the volume of COVID-19 cases across the state.
People in Illinois will wait to see if state lawmakers will look to make the onsite registration waiver permanent. Or if Gov. Pritzker will let it go back in effect once COVID-19 is under control.
Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
Email: [email protected]
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