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Illinois Finally Reports December Handle, Closing Out Record 2020

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Illinois Finally Reports December Handle, Closing Out Record 2020
Aerial Photo of Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Johannes Krupinski

Tardy Illinois is finally out with a report on their December legal sports betting handle and to nobody’s surprise, the figures are eye-opening. For the seventh straight month, Illinois posted a handle-record as bettors in the state pushed sportsbooks with nearly $500 million in legal bets.

Illinois figures are even more impressive considering the fact that all brick-and-mortar casinos were shuttered throughout most of the month due to the second wave of COVID-19. Illinois’ terrific December closed the book on a turbulent 2020 for the legal sports betting industry, that despite unprecedented interruptions in daily life, still produced almost unforeseen numbers.

Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIllinois.com, noted: “No state has made a bigger splash in its first year of regulated sports betting than Illinois. But with growth that is expected of any fledgling market combined with, hopefully, a return to more normal life for everyone, 2020 should be a prologue to a year that has the potential of being one of the most lucrative for any legal jurisdiction.”

Breaking Down December

It took a while for the Illinois Gaming Board to release their December sports betting figures but on Tuesday, those numbers came out and helped the state maintain its status as a “top-4” bet-friendly state in the nation.

Sportsbooks in Illinois took in $491.72 million in bets for December, up 9.5% from November’s $449.24 million, despite minimal retail gambling taking place throughout the month. It represents the seventh straight month that Illinois sportsbooks set a new standard. All but $15.54 million came from Illinois’ mobile apps because of the pandemic-related casino closures.

Revenues unfortunately didn’t follow the handle-spike. Sportsbooks in Illinois made nearly $23.9 million in revenue, following two straight months of reporting over $41 million in profits. The 42.2% decline is due to a win rate that dropped from 9.1% to 4.86% in December.

Contributions to Illinois state and local tax coffers also dipped because of the revenue slump. After two straight months to $6 million+ in contributions, December’s was almost $3.6 million, also a 42.2% decline. For the year, Illinois’ sports betting platform performed admirably. After December, Illinois’ total handle for 2020 came in at $1.9 billion, with $125.5 million in taxable revenue and a $20.2 million spinoff in state and local taxes.

Deeper Dive

Football was the big driver to the Illinois legal sports betting scene once again. It represented about 42% of the overall December handle with basketball contributing 29% and parlays responsible for around 18%.

For the third straight month, Illinois took the National betting handle total to over $3.2 billion. For December, all of the legal sports betting jurisdictions in the country brought in an astounding $3.77 billion, which is up from the $3.46 billion in November.

The total 2020 national sports betting handle was finally tallied up with the Illinois late-report and the numbers are impressive. Bettors in the US spent a grand-total of $21.49 billion at legal US sportsbooks over the 12-month period despite COVID-19 and widespread pro sports shutdowns during the year. 2019 produced a total national handle of about $13.1 billion.

Decisions Looming

The Illinois sports betting industry would have been at near-zero in December especially if not for Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order allowing remote signups for its mobile platform. Remember, Illinois went forward with legal sports betting with an in-person requirement for sign-ups. It was forced to change course because of COVID casino limitations and the lack of visitation at Illinois brick-and-mortar gambling facilities.

The Governor will have a decision to make soon as the latest extension of the executive order is scheduled to expire March 6. The issue is going to come to a head soon – Pritzker could permanently adopt a remote sign-up practice or he could go back to an antiquated in-person sign-up requirement.

A decision of allowing bets on college sports also looms over state legislators. House Bill 0849 that would allow wagering on college sports is gaining momentum and is set to go before the rules committee in the state legislature. Allowing college sports betting before March Madness would be a huge boon for the industry and could reasonably take Illinois out of their cozy fourth-place position to third, or maybe even second.

Going Forward

Illinois keeps on surpassing expectations and if a few decisions go their way, they could further elevate their elite sports betting status on the national stage. “With results that have rivaled far more established markets, it might be easy to forget that Illinois is still nowhere near its maturity as a market,” said Joe Boozell, analyst for PlayIllinois.com. “The state is still very much ramping up, but there is no question that Illinois will be an increasing force in the industry.”

Penn National’s Barstool Sportsbook has its eye on the Land of Lincoln as does Unibet. Both operators will be a boost for the already impressive market and could be the final catalyst for Illinois to take that next step with their legal sports betting platform.

2020 wasn’t a great year for many, but the legal sports betting industry in Illinois will look back on the 365 days as the time they arrived on the National scene. With 2021 poised to be even better, we need to get used to seeing Illinois in the upper echelon of legal sports betting jurisdictions.