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Long-Awaited Illinois March Sports Betting Numbers Take National Handle to New Record

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Long-Awaited Illinois March Sports Betting Numbers Take National Handle to New Record
The sun rises behind the skyline in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

The state of Illinois is finally out with their legal sports betting figures for the month of March and unsurprisingly they reveal yet another record handle for the state, ones that put them just $7 million short of leap-frogging sports betting grand-daddy Nevada for second place on the list of bet-friendly states.

March Madness obviously helped the handle spike, just like in the rest of the country. All together, after Illinois’ report, the US national handle set yet another monthly record and topped $4 billion for the third straight month. A record $4.633 billion was spent on sports wagers in the US during March.

With Illinois’ March haul, they joined Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana as the only states in the nation to surpass the $3 billion lifetime handle.

It isn’t all good news for Illinois, however. March marked the end of remote sign-up for its robust mobile betting platform. All eyes will be on the state to see how in-person only sign-up policies will affect the state’s legal sports betting bottom line.

“The growth over the last year has been staggering, making Illinois the quickest to $3 billion in U.S. history,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIllinois. “The question now becomes what will happen when the brakes are hit on that growth? Does it alarm lawmakers enough to make a change? Or will Illinois be satisfied with where the sports betting market has been frozen in place?”

Getting Into the Numbers

According to the Illinois Gaming Board, their sports betting handle came in at $633.6 million, an increase of 24.3% from February’s $509.8 million. March’s handle is a record for the state, topping the previous high of $581.5 million from January 2021.

Sports betting revenues for the state also saw a significant increase during March. Sportsbooks made $44.3 million from the record handle, which is a 25.2% increase from the $35.4 million in profits seen in February. State and local tax coffers benefitted to the tune of $7.2 million from the profits, a 22.3% spike from February’s $5.9 million.

There is no disputing what the driver for the record Illinois handle was in March – basketball and the NCAA basketball tournament. This despite Illinois residents not being able to bet on their home-state teams. $365.7 million of the $633 million handle came from basketball with a strong assist from March Madness. Tennis contributed $47.2 million, hockey $32.8 million, soccer was responsible for $29.1 million and golf $10.5 million.

The Mobile Conundrum

The Illinois mobile betting scene continues to be the main driver of the state’s sports betting handles. But… things are about to change. Illinois returned to an in-person only sign-up procedure for mobile apps April 2 after COVID-forced Executive Order 2020-41 temporarily allowed for remote registration.

The mobile scene in Illinois enjoyed unprecedented success in the 10 months of remote registration but could take a step back with the return of an in-person sign-up method that has hindered states like Nevada.

Mobile apps were responsible for $609 million of the $633.6 million March handle in Illinois, which is more than 96% of the overall handle. The mobile take is up 24.2% from February’s $490.2 million. Retail betting increased 25.4% in March and was responsible for $24.6 million of Illinois’ overall March handle.

Illinois Standing

March saw Illinois maintain their spot as the third-best sports betting jurisdiction in the nation, only $7 million out of second place Nevada. But their standing within the US legal sports betting scene is in peril with the news that they are ending their remote sign-up for betting apps. Hopes are the return of the retail side of the business and OTBs can make up some of the slack.

“March Madness helped deliver a huge month for Illinois, but March is essentially a ‘last hurrah’ for the state’s rapid growth,” said Joe Boozell, analyst for PlayIllinois.com. ” Illinois will still be one of the largest U.S. markets because of the population of the state, but it will be difficult to maintain its current status as the U.S. No. 3, much less catch Nevada. No matter how appealing a market, there isn’t any easy way to overcome the inconvenience of in-person registration.”

It took some time for Illinois to break the $600 million mark and it may be a while before they approach that mark again. All eyes will be on the Illinois legal sports betting scene in April to see if a partially self-inflicted remote betting sign-up slump does indeed come to fruition.