Illinois Record March Sports Betting Handle Puts US Over $4.6B

Illinois Record March Sports Betting Handle Puts US Over $4.6B
© USA Today

March turned out to be another record month for sports betting in Illinois. It also sent the U.S. total sports betting handle for the month over $4.6 billion.

According to the numbers released Monday by the Illinois Gaming Board, the state’s total sports betting handle came out to $633.6 million, up 24.3% from February’s $509.8 million. March’s total eclipsed the previous high of $581.5 million which was reported in January 2021.

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The handle for March put Illinois No. 3 nationally behind New Jersey and Nevada, but Illinois was No. 2 nationally in revenue. March was the third straight month that the U.S. topped $4 billion in total sports betting handle.

March Madness aided the biggest handle in the history of the state, despite Illinois residents being unable to wager on in-state college teams. Basketball made up more than half of the total handle, taking $365.7 million in bets, while tennis ($47.2 million), hockey ($32.8 million), soccer ($29.1 million) and golf ($10.5 million) rounded out the top five. Parlays accounted for $122 million in bets.

Early March Madness numbers presented to the Illinois Gaming Board showed that $176.8 million had been bet on the tournament with one operator still to report. It clearly went way above the early projection.

March’s record Illinois handle might not be touched in the coming months. It was the last month that remote registration was permitted in Illinois. Gov. JB Pritzker on April 2 decided not to extend remote registration via Executive Order 2020-41, which allowed for mobile registration for online sportsbooks. Every month since June 2020, except for July, players in Illinois could register online. For April and the foreseeable future, they will now be required to register in-person at the sportsbook’s casino partner in the state.

The March gaming report shows the impact that the mobile market has on the state. Most of the sports wagers were done online, with the mobile sports betting handle totaling $609 million for the month, up 24.2% from February’s $490.2 million. The retail sports betting increased 25.4% to $24.6 million from February’s mark of $19.6 million. More than 96% of the bets placed in March were on mobile devices or online.

Total sports betting revenue came in at $44.3 million, an increase of 25.2% from February’s $35.4 million. The sports betting tax was reported at $7.2 million, up 22.3% from February’s mark of $5.9 million.

Illinois Sports Betting Handle, March vs. February

Total handleMobile HandleRetail Handle
ChangeUp 24.3% Up 24.2%Up 25.4%

Handle Could Grow if New Bill Passed

Illinois State Rep. Michael J. Zalewski is working on allowing Illinoisans to bet on the in-state college teams. In February, he re-filed a bill that would remove the sports wagering ban on Illinois colleges. As impressive as Illinois’ latest gaming numbers are, it had the potential to be even better if residents in the state were able to bet on the two local teams taking part in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: Illinois and Loyola Chicago.

In a recent hearing, Zalewski discussed how people within the state are already betting on local schools. He highlighted how players are willing to go across state lines to Indiana to place their bets, or use illegal sportsbooks or offshore websites to get their wagers in.

“We have a provision that doesn’t do what it was meant to do, and we have a smaller marketplace as a result,” he said.

Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman was in the hearing and spoke on behalf of the athletic administrators who remained opposed to allowing sports betting on in-state teams. He cites the added pressure and harassment student-athletes would face if sports betting on Illinois colleges was allowed.

“By allowing people in our state to bet on our student-athletes, we’re only opening the door and inviting people to have those intense, threatening abusive interactions with our student-athletes, and that’s something that myself and my colleagues strongly oppose,” Whitman said.

US Total Handle Record for March

With Illinois’ total, the handle for March in the U.S. was more than $4.6 billion ($4.633 billion). In addition to Illinois, seven other states topped $300 million in total handle for the month, led by New Jersey. Illinois' $633.6 million came in third, but closed the gap on No. 2 Nevada:

  • New Jersey’s total sports betting handle in March was $859.6 million, according to figures released April 16. That was up 15.7% from February’s $742.9 million.
  • In Nevada, the March total sports betting handle was $641 million. That was an increase of 15.7% from February’s $554 million.
  • Pennsylvania posted $560.3 million in March sports betting handle, a 9.97% increase over last month’s $509.5 million.
  • Michigan had a total handle of $383.7 million in March.
  • Indiana reported $316.7 million in March handle, which was a 15.6% increase from the $273.9 million in February.
  • Virginia’s total handle was $304.1 million in March, just its second full month. Virginia was helped out by betting on the NCAA Tournament, which was $83.6 million of the amount bet in March.
  • Colorado also topped $300 million ($301 million) in total March sports betting handle. The state recently celebrated its one-year anniversary (May 1) of launching legal sports betting.

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