Illinois sets record with more than $1 billion wagered on sports in October

Illinois casino sportsbooks came out ahead for the month of October with more than $102 million in revenue, cementing the state’s status as one of the nation’s most bet-hungry sports markets.

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The BetRivers Sportsbook in Des Plaines, pictured in March of 2020. Illinoisans bet more than $1 billion on sports in October.

The BetRivers Sportsbook in Des Plaines, pictured in March 2020. Illinoisans bet more than $1 billion on sports in October.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Illinois bettors plunked down more than $1 billion on sports in October, a new record for the state’s young sports betting industry and one of the highest monthly figures recorded anywhere in the U.S. since the industry was legalized, gambling regulators announced Thursday.

The staggering monthly handle — the total amount of money wagered — cements Illinois’ status as one of the nation’s most bet-hungry sports markets, joining New York, New Jersey and Nevada as the only states to cross the billion-dollar mark in a single month.

Illinois casino sportsbooks came out ahead for the month with more than $102 million in revenue, Illinois Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter said during a monthly meeting held by the agency.

The overall house earnings for the month generated about $15 million in state tax revenue and another roughly $1 million for Cook County government.

Illinoisans have now wagered almost $17 billion on sports since the industry launched in the state just a few days before the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020.

The state’s 12 sportsbooks have netted almost $1.3 billion over that time, creating almost $190 million in tax revenue.

The October betting numbers — the most recent available from the gaming board — were boosted largely by the first full month of NFL games. Football was the most popular sport to bet on, with a handle of $358 million, followed by basketball ($114 million) and tennis ($85 million).

“It is an incredible accomplishment for everyone involved in the Illinois sports betting industry to exceed $1 billion in handle,” said Dave Briggs, an analyst for the sports betting website PlayIllinois.com. “Betting on the NFL and the opening of both the NBA and NHL regular seasons were major catalysts behind the record month.”

Sports betting was legalized as part of a massive gambling expansion signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2019.

Industry insiders and government officials alike are banking on the market to keep booming as new sportsbooks are earmarked for Chicago’s major sports stadiums, and as the state solicits applications for an online-only sports betting license. The sports betting apps that are advertised so ubiquitously across the airwaves and internet currently operate in Illinois only in partnership with a brick-and-mortar casino or racetrack.

Opponents note that the state’s sports betting explosion has also resulted in rising gambling addiction. Calls to the state’s gambling addiction hotline more than doubled over the first year the industry was live in Illinois.

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