Early Numbers Show Illinois NCAA Tournament Handle Over $175M

Early Numbers Show Illinois NCAA Tournament Handle Over $175M
© USA Today

Early indications point to Illinois having its biggest sports betting month yet.

During Wednesday’s meeting of the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB), Administrator Marcus Fruchter highlighted the NCAA Basketball Tournament betting numbers from this past March. With one operator still having to report March figures, Illinois had an NCAA Tournament sports betting handle of $176.8 million with $14.6 million in revenue. That should result in a minimum of $2.1 million in tax revenue.

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The full March numbers are expected to come in the next few weeks, and with the boost of March Madness betting, Illinois could be looking at its highest sports betting handle. This tournament was the first residents in Illinois could wager on after last year’s event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. For the Super Bowl, the IGB noted Illinoisans bet $45.6 million.

The sports betting handle for February in Illinois was $509.8 million. The record for the state was set in January at $581.5 million.

March was also the last month that remote registration was in place in Illinois. Gov. JB Pritzker decided not to extend remote registration on April 2. Nearly every month since he first issued an executive order on June 4, 2020, he has allowed it because of the coronavirus and closure of state casinos.

So it looks like March’s numbers could be the high-water mark for Illinois until remote registration returns.

Not Including Illinois Schools

The $178.6 million mark could grow to over $200 million when the official numbers come out and include the last operator. But the handle had the potential to be bigger if not for an Illinois law that prevents betting on in-state college teams.

Illinois had two teams from the state make the tournament, with Illinois and Loyola-Chicago facing off in the Round of 32. Loyola-Chicago pulled off the upset as a No. 8 seed and advance to the Sweet 16.

In addition to the single-game matchups, there is also no wagering on futures bets such as picking teams to reach the Final Four and winning the national title in Illinois. But considering that both Illinois and Loyola-Chicago lost early, that might have been a good thing for Illinois bettors this season.

There is a proposal to allow in-state college wagering in Illinois. In March, Illinois State Rep. Michael J. Zalewski re-filed a bill to remove the ban on in-state college sports betting. It’s the same bill he filed in January that did not end up making it out of the Rules Committee after an initial reading, but there is now a new General Assembly in Illinois.

In January, Zalewski tweeted, “NCAA athletes were asked to play during COVID. Given that fact, the idea they’d be harmed by wagering is illusory.”

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