New Illinois Bettors Mostly Taking A Swing At Golf Wagers

Written By Joe Boozell on July 13, 2020 - Last Updated on January 24, 2022

BetRivers launched its mobile product in Illinois in June. As of now, it’s the only mobile sportsbook offering in the Land of Lincoln. BetRivers Illinois was able to capitalize on Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order suspending the in-person registration requirement indefinitely.

For other licensed operators, it’s now a race to see who can launch their product in time for a (hopefully) loaded late July sports calendar. But in the meantime, what are Illinoisans betting on?

As you’ll see, golf and soccer lead the way by a large margin. BetRivers doesn’t have an iOS mobile app yet, but one is in the works. Bettors can access the sportsbook site on their phone’s browser in tandem with a third-party app from geolocation company GeoComply, called GeoGuard.

What IL players are betting on

While we don’t have handle amounts, we know which sports and leagues are drawing the most action based on wager percentage. These Illinois figures are from Sunday, July 5:

Sport/League% Of Total Wagering Volume
Golf: PGA Tour - Tournament Bets32.48%
Football: Spain - La Liga12.55%
Football: Italy - Serie A10.21%
Football: USA - NWSL Challenge Cup10.01%
Football: England - Premier League9.56%
Golf: PGA Tour - 2 Balls 18 Hole Bets4.46%
Football: English Premier League4.31%
Motorsports: NASCAR - Cup Series2.98%
Baseball: South Korea - KBO League2.70%
Football: Portugal - Primeira Liga2.17%

And here are the total wagering percentages by sport, not distinguished by leagues:

Sport% Of Total Wagering Volume
Football (Soccer)55.17%
Australian Rules0.58%

*Data courtesy of BetRivers

BetRivers says the Rocket Mortgage Classic accounted for 35% of all bets placed last weekend (including Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Jersey, and Indiana). Bryson DeChambeau (+600) won the event as the betting favorite.

How Illinois compares to other states

The main difference you’ll see when examining the state-by-state data is table tennis’ strong positioning in everywhere but Illinois and Indiana. Russian ping-pong, one of the few winners of 2020, cracked the top 10 in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Colorado. In fact, it was BetRivers’ most heavily-wagered league in Colorado on Sunday.

The reason it’s nowhere to be found in Illinois’ rankings? It’s not offered. The Indiana Gaming Commission pulled Russian ping-pong off the board amid integrity concerns last month. There’s been no official word from the Illinois Gaming Board on the matter, but perhaps their reasoning is similar.

What could change in the coming weeks?

Quite a bit. MLB is set to begin on July 23, the NBA plans to resume on July 30 and the NHL is eyeing an Aug. 1 start. We still don’t know much about where football stands, but as of now, the NFL plans to start training camp as scheduled on July 28. If preseason games happen, they’d likely draw betting interest. A 2019 ESPN story notes that NFL preseason games sometimes have a bigger handle than MLB regular-season games. And professional bettors love the preseason.

This should be a hectic couple of weeks and months for the Illinois betting industry, too. BetRivers may be the only online product on the market as of this writing, but that likely won’t be the case for long. DraftKings just partnered with Casino Queen to avoid the 18-month “penalty box” rule for mobile-only books, and it has a great incentive to launch in the Illinois market soon.

Here are the five other casinos who’ve obtained four-year master licenses:

  • Argosy Casino Alton
  • Grand Victoria Casino
  • Hollywood Casino Aurora
  • Hollywood Casino Joliet
  • Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino

Argosy briefly launched its brick-and-mortar sportsbook right before all casino operations were suspended because of COVID-19. It’s since reopened but doesn’t have a mobile offering. BetMGM Illinois could hit the market soon, as it owns Grand Victoria and has been quick to launch in other states.

Will overseas soccer and non-major golf events be able to maintain some betting interest once the mainstream leagues return? Time will tell, hopefully.

Let’s just hope we get to a place where that question can be answered.

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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, and Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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