The waiting is always the hardest part with Illinois since it is the last state to publish its sports betting revenue numbers for a given month, but the Gaming Board added a further layer of intrigue for its March report Wednesday.
Administrator Marcus Fruchter offered a snapshot of the state’s sports betting numbers for the NCAA tournament during his remarks as part of the IGB’s regularly scheduled meeting. With one operator yet to provide its totals, Fruchter said Illinois sportsbooks accepted approximately $176.8 million in wagers for college basketball’s signature event. Operators that have submitted their financials reported $14.6 million in revenue, which would give the state nearly $2.2 million in tax receipts based on Illinois’ 15% tax rate on revenue.
As impressive as the handle is, and the likelihood of the final total clearing $200 million for March Madness, there was still money left on the table. Illinois does not allow wagering on in-state college teams, which means operators could not accept bets for the second-round matchup and intrastate showdown between Illinois and Loyola of Chicago.
The eighth-seeded Ramblers, who stunned college basketball by reaching the Final Four in 2018 as a No. 11 seed, pulled off another upset with a 71-58 wire-to-wire win over the top-seeded Illini, throwing brackets everywhere into chaos. All told, there were four games Illinois bettors could not wager on during the NCAA tournament due to the in-state carveout, as Loyola’s run ended in the next round.
There is currently a bill on the House side of the Illinois General Assembly that would amend the Sports Wagering Act to remove the college carveout. If it passed, such betting could be in place for the start of college football in the fall.
Illinois cracked the top three in monthly handle on a national basis for the first time in February, totaling nearly $510 million and edging out Pennsylvania by less than a quarter of a million dollars. The Keystone State had a sizable rebound in March, with its handle of nearly $560 million the second-highest total since launching operations in November 2018. The Land of Lincoln should see a bump as well considering the NCAA tournament handle total and the launching of Barstool Sportsbook on the mobile side just prior to the start of the tourney.
Illinois established its high-water mark in January at $581.5 million and will become the fifth state to surpass $3 billion in handle — after Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana — when the March report is released. It has quickly become a top national player despite launching in March 2020 and being shuttered for two-plus months due to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic before mobile wagers started being accepted in mid-June.