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Soccer kicks aside PGA golf and Korean baseball in Day 1 mobile sports betting popularity

Almost two-thirds of the money bet on the first day of mobile sports betting in Illinois was wagered on Spanish soccer.

Jules Koundé of Sevilla is challenged by Luis Suárez of Barcelona in Seville, Spain, on Friday.
Jules Koundé of Sevilla is challenged by Luis Suárez of Barcelona during the Liga match between Sevilla FC and FC Barcelona at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville, Spain, on Friday.
Fran Santiago/Getty Images

With the coronavirus shutdown top of mind and the state’s first online sportsbook in hand, Illinois bettors have turned to footy.

Overseas soccer matches drew 78% of the money wagered Thursday on BetRivers.com with the launch of legal, mobile sports betting in Illinois through Rivers Casino.

Representatives for the Des Plaines gambling house declined to share the inaugural handle or the overall number of bets placed. But beyond the soccer-happy handle percentage, they said about 60% of the Illinoisans who created accounts to plunk money down put at least some of their money on soccer.

Most of that money — 56% — was placed on La Liga Spanish football and Real Madrid’s winning matchup against Valencia.

As for the rest of the action, bettors chipped in about 17% of the handle on PGA Tour golf and threw 5% on Korean baseball.

Coilin Morikawa misses a putt on the 17th green during a playoff round Sunday.
Coilin Morikawa misses a putt on the 17th green during a playoff round at the Charles Schwab Challenge golf tournament at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday.
David J. Phillip/AP file

The bullish market for soccer — or football as the rest of the world calls it — is expected to even out as more sports return to the board following months of inaction due to the pandemic. There are varying levels of optimism for the NHL, NBA and MLB to hammer out deals with their respective players’ associations to return to action this summer.

After its retail sportsbook launch in March was spoiled by the shutdown, Rivers became the first of the state’s seven licensed casinos to offer online sports betting, a crucial market that draws the vast majority of the handle in other states where it’s legal. About three-quarters of Rivers’ Day 1 bets were made from cellphones as opposed to computers, a figure that’s expected to rise.

In addition to casinos and racetracks, sports arenas such as Soldier Field and the United Center are eligible to apply for sports betting licenses under Illinois’ new gambling law, but they have yet to do so.