Out Like A Lion: 4 Takeaways From Illinois’ December Sports Betting Report

Written By Joe Boozell on February 17, 2021 - Last Updated on February 4, 2022

Illinois recorded a $491.7 million December sports betting handle, setting yet another monthly record.

The Prairie State fell just short of $500 million, but it should eclipse that benchmark soon. Illinois is ranked as the No. 4 sports betting state in the US; however, it could pass Pennsylvania for No. 3 in the coming months.

The December success was despite all Illinois casinos being closed for the entire month. While online betting is far more prevalent, Illinois likely would have exceeded $500 million had casinos been open.

Here are a some key takeaways and questions stemming from the latest numbers.

When could the Illinois sports betting market pass Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania is the No. 3 sports betting state in the US, and it posted a $548.6 million December handle.

That was a $56.7 million jump in comparison to November.

Illinois, meanwhile, increased by $42.5 million from November to December.

Despite its success, it appears Illinois has hit a bit of a ceiling when comparing it to other states.

That wasn’t the case in, say, September and October. Between those two months, Illinois’ handle rose by $129.4 million. New sportsbooks were launching, and others could register users remotely for the first time.

In Pennsylvania, handle jumped by $63 million between September and October.

Of course, we should mention that Illinois missed out on retail handle for the entire month of December. In October, that accounted for $24.8 million worth of bets.

Still, we have passed the stage where Illinois is growing more rapidly than other markets.

But could that change? Absolutely.

Barstool Sportsbook, other new operators should raise Illinois ceiling

Illinois still only has five online sportsbooks, a small number compared to other top markets.

Pennsylvania, for instance, has 11 online operators.

One of those is Barstool, which plans to launch in Illinois in time for March Madness. Barstool was the third-most popular sportsbook in PA in December, recording $72.6 million in handle.

We can’t project exact figures for Barstool in Illinois or if its launch could negatively impact existing operators.

But if it performs similarly to how it has in Pennsylvania, that alone would be enough to bridge the gap between the two states.

And that’s not even accounting for BetMGM sportsbook and Unibet sportsbook, which both plan to launch in IL in 2021. BetMGM is one of the biggest brands in sports betting after DraftKings and FanDuel.

Of course, all of this hinges on whether or not Gov. JB Pritzker will end online registration amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While he’s expected to keep renewing his executive order, that’s not a certainty.

But if Pritzker does, Illinois could jump Pennsylvania once more operators go live.

In other news, FanDuel passes BetRivers

For the first time, BetRivers finished outside of the top two in sports betting handle.

Here were the full December numbers per operator:

LicenseeOnline BrandTotal HandleOnline HandleRetail HandleTotal RevenueState TaxLocal Tax
Casino QueenDraftKings$195,431,892$195,431,892$0$8,591,137$1,052,253$74,248
Grand VictoriaWilliam Hill$8,583,662$8,583,662$0$1,564,583$86,437$0
Hollywood AuroraN/A$0$0$0-$3,205$29$0
Hollywood JolietN/A$0$0$0-$3,125$0$0

BetRivers is still doing huge numbers in Illinois, but DraftKings and FanDuel have cemented themselves as the market leaders in the state  — as is the case in most.

BetRivers reaped the benefits of being the first operator to launch online for a while, but it’s slipping.

At a certain point, it’s likely that BetRivers will be battling Barstool for the No. 3 spot in the Prairie State.

With all of that said, there is currently still a massive gap between No. 3 BetRivers, and PointsBet and William Hill.

While BetRivers would certainly like to be higher in the rankings, $100 million-plus in monthly handle should still be considered a success.

What did Illinoisans bet on in December?

There were plenty of things to bet on in the final month of 2020.

There was the NFL, college football bowl season, college basketball and the NBA, among other sports.

Here was the breakdown in handle, by sport:

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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. 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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