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Looking Back at Illinois’ First Year of Sports Betting

How did we get here? What has the journey to sports betting in Illinois been like?

In 2020, the Land of Lincoln finally legalized sports betting. The path was officially cleared in the previous year when Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the state’s Sports Wagering Act into law on June 28, 2019. 

The first bets were placed on Illinois soil on March 9, 2020.  Online wagering began roughly a year after the bill was signed into law, on June 18, 2020.

Governor-J.B.-Pritzker signs betting bill

The end of 2020 saw eight licensees operating sportsbooks in the state. Five of those operators also offered online sports wagering, many of them partnering with well-known sports wagering players such as DraftKings and FanDuel.

USBR.com partner with these online betting websites in Illinois:

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Sports Betting Has Been Wildly Popular in Illinois

The Illinois Gaming Board has released gambling data through October 2020, and so far, the numbers look great. 

In 2020 (again, only through October), Illinois’ total sports betting handle was $941.7 million. $68 million of those wagers were placed in person while the vast majority, $873.7 million, was placed online.

That nearly $1 billion total sports betting handle immediately places Illinois amongst the top sports betting states in the country. Only four states, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, had larger total betting handles in 2020.  This is true despite sports betting not starting in Illinois until March 2020 and online sports betting not starting until June 2020.

What is the Future of Illinois Sports Betting?

There future of sports betting in Illinois looks bright. While Illinois’ total sports betting handle lagged behind, the monthly totals tell a different story. 

In October, Illinois raced past neighboring Indiana, nearly doubling its total sports betting handle $434.6 million to $230.9 million. If this pace continues, Illinois will be squarely in competition to break into the top three sports betting states in the county. Illinois’ $434.6 million handle is approaching Pennsylvania, the current third place state, which raked in $525.8 million last October.

Sports betting handle Illinois 2020

All states could expect to see increased sports betting handles as professional leagues and the NCAA inevitably find their footing in the COVID era. This would be particularly true in Illinois, where the most popular sports to wager on were football, baseball, and basketball. 

In 2020, football made up $283.4 million, or roughly 30% of Illinois’ total handle.  Baseball accounted for $195.2 million, about 20% of the total handle, and basketball accounted for $117.6 million, or about 12% of the total handle. The MLB, NBA, and college football of course all played only a fraction of their typical games in 2020. 

As leagues creep toward more standard seasons, and the number of games played increases, states should enjoy larger sports betting handles as well.

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