Wagering at Illinois sportsbooks surged to nearly $1bn in March, setting a fresh state handle record. Sportsbooks also produced record revenue, buoyed by NCAA Tournament betting and the removal of in-person registration requirements, according to PlayIllinois, which tracks the state’s regulated sports betting market.
“March Madness and the removal of in-person registration proved a powerful combination,” said Jake Garza, analyst for PlayIllinois.com. “This is what a less-restrained market in Illinois looks like.”
Sportsbooks took in $971.3m in wagers in March, a fresh record and up 53.3 per cent from $633.6m in March 2021, according to official data released Monday. Fueled by $278.4m in betting on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, March’s handle shattered the previous record of $867.5m in bets in January and was also up 43 per cent from $679.4m in February.
Sportsbooks won $79.4m in gross revenue of March’s bets, up 59.2 per cent from $49.9m in March 2021 and up 155.6 per cent from $31.1m in February. The previous record for monthly revenue was $78.2m in November 2021. The win generated $9.8m in state and local taxes.
March was the first month of betting following the permanent removal of in-person registration rules for online betting, which went into effect on March 5. Now bettors no longer need to register at a retail sportsbook, which was inconvenient enough to dissuade a significant number of would-be bettors and hold the market back.
“Even with the inevitable seasonal slowdown that begins in April, the state’s sports betting industry should continue to make a significant lurch forward compared with last year,” said Eric Ramsey, an analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayIllinois.com. “It would not be too surprising if Illinois became the second-largest market in the U.S. by the beginning of football season.”
Online betting accounted for $927.5m, or 95.5 per cent, of all wagers in March. FanDuel led all operators with $315.3m in online and retail wagers, including $310.7m in online wagering. DraftKings followed with $289.2m in combined online and retail handle, including $284.2m in online wagers.
Basketball, which includes both the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments and the NBA, drew a whopping $554.3 million in straight wagers in March. Aside from parlay betting, tennis was the next most popular bet, with $64m in wagers.
“Without football or college basketball to spur interest in the coming months, March will be the last huge month until football season,” Garza said. “But the NBA playoffs, baseball, and major golf tournaments will keep bettors interested, even if we have to wait until September for the state’s first $1bn month.”