The state of Illinois began to flex its sports betting muscles in August, with its six retail sportsbooks and three online platforms generating a combined handle of nearly $140 million according to the Illinois Gaming Board.
The $139.6 million more than doubled the combined $61.7 million handle the IGB reported that covered the months of March, June, and July in its first report. BetRivers (Rivers Casino) represented an overwhelming portion of both the retail and online handle, generating more than $11.3 million for in-person wagering and $106.3 million via online wagering.
The six sportsbooks combined to generate revenue of more than $7.2 million, resulting in a hold of 5.18%. Illinois tax coffers received slightly more than $1 million based on the 15% tax on sports wagering revenues.
Argosy Casino Alton was the only other sportsbook to surpass $1 million in retail handle in August, taking in nearly $2.7 million worth of wagers. William Hill, (Grand Victoria Casino Elgin) generated nearly $600,000 handle at its retail sportsbook following an Aug. 1 launch.
Two other retail sportsbooks — Hollywood Casinos in Joliet and Aurora — opened midway through August and generated retail handle of nearly $500,000.
September handle should be higher
Most promising for the Prairie State is there appears to still be plenty of room for a bigger handle come September. In addition to the increased offering across the sports schedule — most notably the start of the NFL season and college football — it will mark the first time online titans DraftKings and FanDuel will be operational in Illinois for a full month.
DraftKings, which operates a retail sportsbook at Casino Queen, launched both retail and online operations Aug. 5, but it could not noticeably add to its online base of users until Aug. 19, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker restored Executive Order 2020-41 to suspend the in-person registration required for mobile sports betting access. Still, DraftKings generated more than $13 million in online handle in that 12-day window.
FanDuel’s handle was smaller since it did not commence online wagering until Aug. 28, having pivoted away from Fairmount Park and opting to enter Illinois via Par-A-Dice Casino (East Peoria). FanDuel posted handle of $4.2 million for four days of operation and entered the retail space Sept. 10.
PointsBet began accepting mobile wagers Sept. 12, and opened its main retail site at Hawthorne Race Course on Sept. 30. It will also have an eventual retail presence at OTB sites in Crestwood, Oakbrook Terrace, and Prospect Heights in the Chicagoland area. William Hill was the last of the five mobile sportsbooks in the state to accept wagers beginning Sept. 15.
MLB beats NBA for top overall handle
Though both the Chicago Cubs and White Sox were eliminated in the first round of the MLB postseason, their respective drives to the playoffs resulted in plenty of betting interest. BetRivers accepted more than 885,000 total bets on baseball that generated handle of nearly $42.4 million, which was almost 86% of the overall $49.4 million handle generated by the sport.
The Argosy’s proximity to the St. Louis market and the Cardinals helped make MLB the primary driver of their handle. Baseball-based wagers accounted for nearly 36% of the handle and almost 20% of all wagers placed in Alton.
While there were no fans in attendance for NBA games and the Chicago Bulls were not part of life in the Florida bubble, that did not stop Illinois bettors from following the action. Nearly 570,000 wagers were placed on basketball, resulting in a handle of nearly $46.9 million.
Hockey was third in terms of overall bets placed (300,070) with a handle of nearly $14.76 million, and sportsbooks continued to take plenty of action on parlays. There were 253,066 such wagers placed totaling almost $10.6 million in handle.
BetRivers reigns supreme in August, but will it last?
As the first to launch both retail and online, it is not surprising BetRivers generated impressive handles in both categories. That dominant market share was something it hoped to enjoy for a longer period of time given the 540-day waiting period required of online-only sports wagering applicants after a retail license was issued, but both DraftKings and FanDuel circumvented that by partnering with casinos in the state while retaining their respective brand’s identities.
Online registration via Pritzker’s Executive Order is still available until at least Oct. 17, and there will undoubtedly be a substantial addition to the more than 230,000 registered accounts IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter noted in the board’s mid-September meeting across all five mobile sportsbooks.
Some of that expected loss in market share, though, will be canceled out with wagering on NFL and college football.