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US – Illinois sports betting finishes 2021 on a high

By - 8 February 2022

Illinois sportsbooks finished the year on a high note even as December’s nearly $40m revenue on nearly $800m in wagering fell short of setting fresh records. The third straight month with betting of $780m or more was an apt conclusion to a year that positioned Illinois as the nation’s third-largest market for sports betting with nearly $7bn in wagers.

“Sportsbooks have operated at a blistering pace over the last three months, and it certainly helps going forward that the Bulls are a hot ticket,” said Joe Boozell, lead analyst for PlayIllinois.com. “As relentless as the growth has been, though, it’s important to remember that Illinois is far from a mature market. Many of the restraints will go away early this year, which puts the industry in a great position.”

Illinois’ sportsbooks took in $789.6m in online and retail wagers in December, up 60.6 per cent from $491.7m in December 2020 and the second-most in state history, according to official data released Friday. December’s wagers were an extension of a busy fall, which brought $779.8m in November bets and a record $840.4m in wagers in October, which had five full weekends of football betting. Betting volume over the 31 days in December averaged $25.5m per day, down from $26m per day in November.

Bettors fared much better in December than in November, though. Gross gaming revenue fell to a more typical $36.7m in December, down 53.1 per cent from the record $78.2m in November. But December’s win was still up 29.3 per cent from $28.4m in December 2020. The end result in December was $33.7m in taxable revenue, which yielded $5.4m in state and local taxes.

The month was the final chapter in a year that brought explosive growth to sportsbooks, even as in-person registration requirements returned to the state. Illinois’ retail and online sportsbooks for all of 2021 produced $7.02bn in online and retail wagers, up 273 per cent from $1.9bn in 2020. Only New Jersey ($10.9bn) and Nevada ($7.1bn) attracted more in wagers over the year.

“Even with regulatory restraints like in-person registration placed on Illinois operators, the state’s sportsbooks still managed to triple betting volume year over year,” said Eric Ramsey, an analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayIllinois.com. “With in-person registration and other regulations set to go away in March, Illinois could conceivably surpass both Nevada and New Jersey in the year ahead. The future of sports betting in the state is awfully bright.”

Despite the Chicago Bears’ struggles, football produced $265.7 million in wagers in December, up from $257.1 million in November. The Bulls’ success spurred basketball betting to $226.4 million, up slightly from $226.3 million in November.

Online betting accounted for $752.9m, or 95.3 per cent, of all wagers in December. DraftKings/Casino Queen led the state with $295m in combined online and retail handle, including $290.4m in online wagers. The combined handle produced $7.5m in gross revenue.

FanDuel was again second in the state with $232.2m in online and retail wagers, which included $230.6m in online wagering. The combined handle was up from $216.2m in November, yielding a state-best $13.9m in gross revenue.

Regulators also recently approved BetMGM, which sets up the Illinois debut of one the nation’s largest online operators — and just seventh online sportsbook to the state.

“The relative lack of competition among online sportsbooks has been a boon for DraftKings and FanDuel, but has held the overall maturity of the market back,” Boozell said. “Another well-known brand like BetMGM, combined with the regulation changes, should help the market take another leap ahead.”

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