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US – Illinois sportsbooks off to a flier with record January

By - 11 March 2022

Illinois sportsbooks kicked 2022 off with a surge of betting, raising the monthly handle in January to nearly $870m for the first time.

With an extended NFL regular season and expanded playoffs played over five weekends, plus increasing action on basketball, the sports calendar was favorable in January. It’s a momentum-building start to a year that should bring a significant leap forward with the removal of in-person registration requirements lifted earlier this month, according to PlayIllinois, which tracks the state’s regulated online gaming and sports betting market.

“The momentum of the last four months will serve sportsbooks well as the removal of the in-person registration requirement on March 5 moved Illinois sports betting into a new era,” said Joe Boozell, lead analyst for PlayIllinois.com. “Sports betting has continued to gain popularity in the state, and with the reins lifted, Illinois could very well grow into the second-largest market in the US this year.”

Illinois’ sportsbooks generated $867.5m in online and retail wagers in January, breaking the record $840.4m in wagers accepted in October, according to official data released Thursday. January’s handle was up 9.9 per cent from $789.6m in December and up 49.2 per cent over the $581.6m generated in January 2021. Betting volume grew to $28.0 million per day over the 31 days in January from $25.5m in December and $18.8m per day in January 2021.

Sportsbooks won $59.3m in gross revenue from January’s bets, up 61.2 per cent from $36.7m in December and up 20.2 per cent from $49.4m in January 2021. With $66.2m in taxable revenue, $10.7m in tax revenue was injected into state and local coffers.

Legal jurisdictions across the country set wagering records in January, including all of Illinois’ neighbors with sports betting — Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan. A major reason was an additional week of regular-season NFL football and an expanded playoff format squeezed into five January weekends, in addition to college football’s national championship game.

In Illinois, football betting produced $224.1m in wagers in January, down from $265.7m in December. And with more than $60m in Super Bowl-related wagers, announced last month by the state, football has drawn an enormous amount of bettors’ attention so far this year. But the NBA does significant heavy lifting, too. Basketball betting reached $276.2m in January, up from $226.4m in December.

“The NFL did sportsbooks a massive favor by expanding its regular season and playoff schedule,” said Eric Ramsey, an analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayIllinois.com. “The fact that those additional games were all squeezed into one month helped produce some eye-popping numbers in Illinois and beyond.”

Online betting accounted for $829.1m, or 95.6 per cent, of all wagers in January. DraftKings topped operators in the state with $293.2m in combined online and retail handle, including $283.7m in online wagers. That handle produced $17.2m in gross revenue.

FanDuel was second with $261.2m in online and retail wagers, including $259.1m in online wagering. That yielded a state-high $23m in gross revenue.

A new era should bring even bigger numbers. With the NCAA Tournament and removal of in-person registration rules, PlayIllinois projects that March could see close to $1bn in wagers. One new operator, BetMGM, launched over the weekend. And Illinois should see more sportsbook launches in 2022.

“The first two years of sports betting in Illinois have been a rocky road, making it one of the more unusual markets in the US,” Boozell said. “Despite that, the top sportsbooks have thrived. Ideally, the changes will help expand the market and foster a more competitive and healthy market.”

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