Illinois Sports Betting Posts Record Handle of $492M in December

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Illinois sports betting witnessed another record-setting handle for the seventh straight month in December 2020, hitting $491.7 million. According to the report released Tuesday by the Illinois Gaming Board, the December figure represented a 9.5% increase from November’s $449 million. With the Prairie State being the final state to post its monthly figures, the US total sports betting handle for 2020 was recorded as nearly $21.5 billion.

Despite a record-breaking performance, revenue dropped to 23% due to a lower hold rate of 5.8% compared to 8.2% in November. It led sportsbooks to extract just $28.4 million from which the state could generate $3.6 million in tax revenue. Still, the more important aspect of the December handle was that it ranked Illinois the fourth-largest market leader in the US.

It should be noted that the consecutive records in monthly handles come despite lacking retail sports betting activity due to the pandemic. The Prairie State’s seven casinos that extend sports betting, in addition to Hawthorne Race Course, which also provides retail betting, remained closed throughout last month due to the recent wave of the virus. This led Illinois’s five online operators to pick the gauntlet and compete with the other states for market leadership.

Illinois, the Fourth-Largest Market Leader

By monthly handle, Illinois held firm as the fourth-largest betting market in the nation behind New Jersey, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. New Jersey topped December with almost $1 billion in sports betting handle, meaning Illinois still has a long way to climb from its monthly handle of $492 million before hitting the top spot. However, the state appears to gain ground on Pennsylvania, which posted $548.6 million in December handle to claim the third position after New Jersey and Nevada. The Prairie State is projected to capture Pennsylvania’s spot soon.

Overall throughout 2020, Illinois retail and mobile sportsbooks recorded nearly $1.9 billion in bets, $125.5 million in revenue, and $20.2 million in state and local taxes. Illinois handle also put the national sports betting for December at nearly $3.77 billion, representing an increase from November’s $3.46 billion. It is the third consecutive month the US sports betting handle topped $3.2 billion.

Leading Operators & Sports

Like November, DraftKings Sportsbook repeated its leading performance in December as the largest operator in terms of handle. The Boston-based operator had a whopping 40% share of the overall handle. FanDuel with 29% and BetRivers with 23% claimed the second and third positions, respectively. PointsBet was the distant fourth with a handle share of 9%, while the UK-based William Hill managed a smaller piece of the pie (6%).

By revenue, however, the top three sportsbooks contributed roughly equal figures, with DraftKings generating 30%, FanDuel 29%, and BetRivers 26% of the market share. This was the first month the New York-based FanDuel finished ahead of BetRivers in the handle.

As expected, football remained the popular sport to bet on amid the final month of the NFL regular season. The sport drew nearly 42% of the total handle, equating to more than $200 million. This was followed by basketball, which attracted around 29% or $143.5 million of the handle in December. Parlays ranked third as a category, securing 18% of the handle, and soccer was the fourth most popular sport.

What’s Ahead for Illinois Sports Betting?

Illinois sportsbooks appear to show similar growth in the future. However, there are two key factors that could drastically influence how well the market performs in the coming months and years.

Firstly, Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order suspending in-person registration again is set to expire in March. Though the governor is likely to issue another extension, a permanent law will bring certainty among digital sportsbooks and online bettors to help the industry flourish. However, if the in-person registration requirement is put in place once more, this could drastically decrease the rate of growth of Illinois’ digital sports betting market.

Secondly, the industry backs House Bill 0849, seeking to lift the ban on in-state college betting. This bill was referred to the rules committee last week and picked up two new sponsors yesterday. If passed, the state will have more sports betting options available which should help with growth and push Illinois ahead of Pennsylvania to become the third-best industry in the US.

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