January 2021 saw Illinois surpass $500 million in total money wagered for the first time in state history, with a record-setting haul of $581.6 million in sports betting handle.
During its nine-month online sports betting history, Illinois has set a new betting record every month. December 2020’s previous record was just shy of half a billion, coming in at $491.7 million, and January’s $581.6 million represents a greater than 18% increase from the final month of 2020, according to the Illinois Gaming Board.
In December 2020, Illinois claimed the nation’s number-four spot when it comes to the most money wagered (total handle) by state. Their $491.7 million trailed Pennsylvania ($548.5 million), Nevada ($588.4 million), and New Jersey ($996.3 million).
Remaining Firmly at Number Four
Illinois’ January 2021 sports betting handle amount topped Pennsylvania’s handle from December 2020, but the Land of Lincoln remained in the number-four spot as Pennsylvania also set a record in January 2021, increasing its handle to $615.3 million.
Nevada also had a record-setting January that kept the Silver State on the sports betting podium with a $646.7 million handle. New Jersey saw a 4% decline, but its $958.7 million handle was still more than $300 million clear of any other state in the country.
Illinois reports its sports betting numbers several weeks after the states above, so February’s numbers have yet to be released. And the abbreviated month of February could be the first month Illinois betting handle declines as it did in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, despite the bump from Super Bowl betting. Should February’s total handle not surpass $581.5 million, it would mark the first time in the state’s history without a new record.
It also remains to be seen if March will surpass that number, with March Madness providing plenty of sports betting opportunities. However, betting on in-state teams is still illegal in Illinois, meaning sports bettors within Illinois state lines will not be able to bet on the number-one seeded University of Illinois. The eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago will also be off-limits for the same reason.
Additionally, the March Madness tournament is taking place in neighboring Indiana, which may pull some basketball and betting enthusiasts across state lines.
DraftKings Leading the Charge
For January 2021, DraftKings (and its partnership with the Casino Queen in East Saint Louis) held the top spot in the state with a total handle of $244.2 million. Only $657,356 was accounted for through retail bets in Illinois, meaning the remaining $243.5 million was wagered at its Illinois online sportsbook.
DraftKings’ top competitor, FanDuel, secured the number two position, though its $173.5 million handle was still well behind DraftKings.
One fact to note regarding FanDuel is that January was the penultimate month in which it had a partnership with the Par-A-Dice Casino. On March 1, FanDuel officially transferred its betting license to Fairmount Park Racetrack and subsequently changed the property’s name to FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing.
Below is a look at how the numbers broke down by individual sportsbooks for January 2021.
Can More Competition Put Illinois over the Top?
Despite failing to overtake Pennsylvania or Nevada to move into the top three in the nation for monthly total handle in January, Illinois’ 18% growth still puts it on pace to overtake one or both states in the near future. More sportsbooks are expected to become operational in the coming months as well, and such competition (and the associated marketing blitzes) could be just what the state needs to make that push.
At the top of the list of operators on their way to Illinois is BetMGM, who is expected to soon enter into the Illinois betting landscape via a partnership with the recently vacated Par-A-Dice Casino. Par-A-Dice is owned by Boyd Gaming, which has a standing partnership with BetMGM since 2018 for its online gaming ventures.
Barstool Sports is another potential competitor to shake up the market, recently announcing its plans to soon launch the Barstool Sportsbook app in partnership with the Hollywood Joliet Casino. Penn Gaming, one of the main stakeholders in Barstool Sports, operates other casinos in Illinois, including Hollywood Casino Aurora and the Argosy Casino in Alton. That gives Penn a lot of opportunities to push the Barstool brand.