Illinois records modest fall in May sportsbook handle despite in-person registration

Betting volume at Illinois sportsbooks hit $507m in May, overcoming in-person registration requirements to fall only slightly from April according to analysts from PlayIllinois, which tracks the state’s regulated online gaming and sports betting market. 

May’s handle was the second-largest of any state in the US, joining New Jersey as the only two states to take in more than $500m in sports wagers in both April and May.

Betting at Illinois’ retail and online sportsbooks dropped 5.6% to $507.3m in May from the $537.2m in April. The pace of betting slowed modestly, too, to $16.9m per day over the 31 days of May from $17.9m per day in April.

Gross gaming revenue fell 12.9% to $36.6m in May from $42m in April. That produced $36.2m in adjusted gross revenue, yielding $5.9m in state and local taxes. Sportsbooks have now generated $53.8m in taxes since sports betting launched in 2020.

The handle in nearly every state has fallen since March, even as combined US wagering climbed slightly in May from April.

“It’s been a mild surprise that Illinois has managed to fare as well as it has through the first two months of what is typically the offseason for sports betting,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayIllinois.com. “In-person registration requirements will cap future growth. But the results in April and May do show just how active and engaged Illinois bettors have been.” 

Of the Top 10 US markets, Illinois’ month-on-month decrease in May wagering was behind the pace of New Jersey (up 8.9%), Indiana (up 7.6%), Nevada (up 4.3%), Colorado (up 1.8%), Iowa (down 2.9%), and Virginia (down 4.0%), but outperformed Michigan (down 6.0%), Tennessee (down 6.7%), and Pennsylvania (down 6.7%). 

Illinois’ handle dropped 15.2% in April, but that was better than most of the nation’s 10 largest markets, which all saw at least a 13% decline in betting from March to April.

Basketball has been the favorite over the last two months, generating $154.3m in wagering in May, down from $171.4m in April. Bettors have found local reasons to place a bet, too, particularly with a good run of play in May by the Chicago White Sox and Cubs. Bettors placed $126.1m on baseball, up from $121.2m in April. Tennis ($32.6m), soccer ($29.3m), and hockey ($21.1m) all drew significant action, too.

“Successful local teams are particularly important in months without football or a major betting holiday like March Madness,” said Joe Boozell, analyst for PlayIllinois.com. “Both the White Sox and Cubs won big in May, and that entices fans to place a bet on their favorite team. That helped make up for the Bulls and Blackhawks missing the postseason, lowering interest in both the NBA and NHL playoffs.”

$482.5m, or 95.1%, of May’s bets were made online. DraftKings/Casino Queen rocketed back into the market lead with $170.1m in combined online and retail handle, up from $169.6m. May’s handle included $166.2m in online bets and led to $7.2m in gross gaming revenue.

FanDuel/Fairmont’s online and retail sportsbooks attracted $156.3m in bets in May, down from $177.8m in April. But the month’s bets, $155.6m of which came online, generated a whopping $20.2m in gross gaming revenue.  

BetRivers/Rivers Casino rose to $89m in combined handle, including $76.7m in online wagering. That led to $5.2m in gross gaming revenue.

The market could get more competition in the coming months, too. That includes the Illinois arrival of BetMGM, the nation’s third-largest online sportsbook operator, as well as Unibet, Golden Nugget, theScore, and Bally’s.

“A fresh infusion of operators has the potential to eventually lift the ceiling for the market,” Boozell said. “But until online registration returns to the state, new operators will remain at a permanent disadvantage. And that will blunt any boost the market would ordinarily get from new sportsbooks.”