Projection: Illinois Will Set All-Time State Handle Record In March 2022, But Fall Shy Of $1 Billion In Sports Bets

Written By Joe Boozell on February 22, 2022
March Madness bracket

In March 2021, Illinois mobile sportsbooks set a then-handle record with $633.6 million in bets. At the time, it seemed gaudy.

And it was, but we should see meaningful growth in March 2022. In-person registration goes away on March 5, and at least one new operator (BetMGM Sportsbook) will launch.

Others will have a chance to acquire new customers remotely for the first time since April.

This is an unprecedented scenario in the youthful legal US sports betting market. Sure, other states have had periods of in-person registration. But the flip-flopping makes Illinois unique — if you’ll recall, there were about seven months of online registration in 2020-21 due to COVID-19.

Which makes the future quite hard to predict. Will we see a full-on sports betting explosion in March with the in-person shackles removed? Or given that sportsbooks haven’t had a chance to sign people up online since April, is the hype overblown? Or something in between?

Here is our educated guess about what type of results Illinois sports betting apps will produce next month.

Not quite $1 billion, but impressive

We are setting the March handle over/under at $900 million. That would be a state record, though it obviously would fall shy of the $1 billion milestone.

We can use year-over-year Super Bowl betting numbers to inform our March Madness betting prediction.

In 2021, Illinoisans bet $45.6 million on the big game. That number rose to $60.5 million in 2022, about a 25% increase.

If we add 25% to $633.6 million, the March 2021 figure, we would get about $791 million. But we also have to factor in that people will be able to sign up for IL sportsbooks online come March 5. That should juice handle well over $791 million, but to what extent is unclear.

There are, however, some ideas that inform our perspective. Last year, Barstool launched in Illinois on March 11. It took about $49 million in bets for the month.

Back to Barstool quickly, but BetMGM would seem likely to top that number upon launch, or at least meet it.

Barstool’s handle should also increase from what we’ve been seeing in the typical month ($56 million in December, the latest revenue report). It only had three weeks to register users online, significantly less time than every other live operator. Expect Barstool to surge in March.

The same goes for Caesars by William Hill, though perhaps to a smaller extent. It was in the midst of a brand transition when it launched in IL in September 2020, but it should become much more of a player in a post-IPR world.

Add in folks who simply never got around to downloading DraftKings, FanDuel, BetRivers and PointsBet — as well as newcomers to the state — and we land at our $900 million projection.

What would this mean for operator and tax revenue?

Last year, sportsbooks made $49.8 million in March revenue. That resulted in about $7 million in state and local tax dollars.

That was a 7.9% operator hold rate. If sportsbooks win at a similar rate in 2022, that would come out to $70.7 million in operator revenue and $9.9 million in state and local taxes.

And while the handle number would set a record, those figures actually wouldn’t. November 2021 was a huge win for sportsbooks, as they made $11.9 million in revenue.

Sometimes, the book has better months than others and vice versa. We can’t project that dynamic as it pertains to this year’s NCAA Tournament.

But what we do know is that the Illinois sports betting market is about to take another leap. It’s been real, in-person registration.

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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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