The Illinois Gaming Board released its sports betting revenue numbers for November on Wednesday, and the $447 million handle reported by Administrator Marcus Fruchter showed a slight increase from October’s previous record of $434.6 million.
The Illinois handle was hindered to a degree with the Nov. 17 closures of the state’s casinos due to a COVID-19 resurgence throughout the state. The numbers provided by Fruchter were a snapshot as the full report was not available at the time of the meeting since the IGB was working with the state’s casinos and Hawthorne Race Course to provide complete reports for publication.
There are seven casinos that operate retail sportsbooks along with Hawthorne Race Course, and mitigation measures did not allow the re-opening of these venues until earlier this month.
Revenue dipped narrowly month over month to $41 million, for a 9.17% hold rate for the sportsbooks, and the 15% tax rate on that adjusted gross revenue resulted in approximately $6.15 million for the state’s keep. Illinois became the second state this week and sixth overall to cross the $1 billion threshold for sports betting handle since launch, doing so in approximately eight months since taking its first wagers in March.
The time the Illinois market needed to reach $1 billion is impressive considering both the pandemic and mobile wagering not being available until mid-June via executive order from Gov. JB Pritzker, who has since renewed Executive Order 2020-41 — which suspends the in-person registration required for mobile sports betting access — on multiple occasions. The latest renewal is scheduled to expire Feb. 6, which means an eighth overall renewal is likely considering the expiration date is prior to kickoff of Super Bowl LV — the largest single sports betting event annually.
For the second consecutive month, the national handle saw a new high as more than $3.46 billion was wagered in November, an increase of nearly 6% from October’s handle of nearly $3.27 billion.
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With the Super Bowl less than two weeks away, Fruchter also provided an update on the novelty prop betting market that comes with the big game — available for legal betting in Illinois for the first time. Some states, including Indiana, have a robust offering that includes wagering on who the Super Bowl MVP will thank first or whether Player X (read as: Tom Brady) will announce their retirement in addition to the standard prop bets including which team will win the coin toss or the color of the Gatorade expected to be dumped on the winning coach in celebration.
The IGB Administrator explained that the board approved “wagering on all events organized or sanctioned by the National Football League” and that included “any occurrence related to the conduct of a sports event.” Fruchter further explained that “approval of wagering on occurrences related to the conduct of the Super Bowl is limited to activity directly within the control or jurisdiction of the NFL and/or individuals subject to the NFL’s integrity policy.”
With those guidelines, some of the potential permissible prop bets Fruchter cited included comparing the length of a scoring drive to the length of the singing of the national anthem, the coin flip, number of penalties, and total length of the halftime. Fruchter also detailed examples of impermissible bets, including the length of singing the anthem, any occurrence related to the television broadcast — which included announcers’ wardrobes, the order of commercials aired, content related to The Weeknd’s halftime show — and “actions or statements of individual coaches, players, NFL, or team officials, fans, etc.”
Thus, there will be no markets in Illinois available on whether players will say they’re “going to Disney World” or announcing their retirement. Fruchter stressed the decisions relate to maintaining the integrity of the state’s sports betting market by “avoiding wagers that are wholly unconnected to the conduct of the Super Bowl and lack sufficient safeguard and oversight.”
Hard Rock makes its presentation for preliminary suitability
The meeting also featured a presentation by 815 Entertainment, doing business as Hard Rock Casino, to receive approval for preliminary suitability for a casino in Rockford. That was one of five locations in the state permitted to open a casino as part of the gaming expansion bill Gov. Pritzker signed into law in June 2019.
Hard Rock Chief Operating Officer John Lucas and 815 Entertainment lead investor Dan Fischer led the presentation, highlighting the company’s track record of success on both the national and international levels. The casino, which Hard Rock claims would provide an annual economic output of $282 million annually, would be located in a high-visibility area that can be seen from nearby Interstate 90 in northwest Illinois.
There are plans for a nearby temporary casino — which would consist exclusively of slot machines — while the permanent one would be constructed, and it could be operational within approximately 90 days of receiving a license. Hard Rock, which is also targeting to open a casino in northwest Indiana this spring near the Chicago area, also estimated construction for the Rockford casino would take between 18 to 24 months and have 1,500 slots, 55 tables in 64,000 square feet of net gaming space. It would also create between 800 and 1,000 permanent jobs in addition to the 1,200 jobs estimated for construction.
The Board will meet in closed session the morning of Feb. 4 to discuss their findings before reconvening in open session later that day.
The regulatory body also unanimously approved a request by Full House Resorts to amend its ownership license application. Full House Resorts is one of three groups vying to build a casino in Waukegan along with Rivers Casino — which also operates in Des Plaines — and North Point Casino. Waukegan and South Suburban Chicago each have an open bidding process for a casino operator.