Illinois sportsbooks began to emerge from a summer slowdown in August with an 8.5 per cent gain in betting volume from July, the first month-over-month gain in wagering since March. The boost to more than $400m in wagering was welcome ahead of a critical time of year for the industry.
“Interest in baseball, particularly the White Sox, coupled with the return of football in August set the stage for what will certainly be the busiest four-month stretch ever for Illinois’ legal sports betting industry,” said Eric Ramsey, analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayIllinois.com. “After summer, any gain is welcome. But the gains in August should pale in comparison to what we see with a full football schedule.”
Illinois’ retail and online sportsbooks accepted $400.4m in bets in August, up 185.8 per cent from $140.1m in August 2020 and up 8.5 per cent from $369.1m. The per-day betting volume grew to $12.9m over the 31 days of August, up from $4.5m per day in August 2020 and $11.9m per day in July.
Gross gaming revenue fell 12.3 per cent to $32.7m in August from $37.3m in July, which produced $26.8m in adjusted gross revenue. August’s profit yielded $4.3m in state and local taxes.
Baseball garnered the most interest in August, drawing $139.6m in wagers, up from $124m of action in July. Tennis ($43.4m) and soccer ($30.8m) drew significant interest, too. With just a handful of college and NFL preseason games, in addition to futures betting, football attracted $17.2m in wagering.
August’s volume helped push the industry to $4m in wagers and $326.3m in gross gaming revenue for the year. And with football projected to draw more than $20bn in wagering across the country, the state could reach $6bn in wagers and $500m in gross revenue by year’s end.
“There is little question that the final four months of the year will bring an onslaught of fresh records,” said Joe Boozell, lead analyst for PlayIllinois.com. “The biggest unknown is how much will in-person registration and the ban on wagering on in-state college teams drag on betting volume. We know it will be a strong finish to the year for sportsbooks, but it won’t be as good for the industry as it could have been.”
August’s wagering included $380.2m in online bets, accounting for 95 per cent of the state’s handle. DraftKings/Casino Queen topped Illinois again with $149.2m in combined online and retail handle, up from $122.7m in July. The operator took in a market-best $146.6m in online wagers, too. In all, DraftKings generated a market-leading $11.3m in gross gaming revenue, a notable gain from $9.5m in July after the operator began offering profitable same-game parlays.
FanDuel was second with $111.5m in online and retail wagers, down from $118.5m in bets in July. $110.9m of August’s wager came online. The result was $10.5m in gross gaming revenue.
“The return of football brings in high betting volume, which is a motivator for every operator,” Boozell said. “But the value of football season for sportsbooks isn’t just in short-term profitability. Strong engagement offers sportsbooks an opportunity to grow their customer base by using aggressive promotions and other marketing strategies. And that can pay off even after the football season ends.”