3 Reasons Why Illinois Sports Betting Handle Plateaued In November

Posted By Joe Boozell on February 2, 2021 - Last Updated on March 3, 2021

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) released November sports betting revenue numbers this week. And once again, Illinois set another monthly record for handle.

The Prairie State took in $449.2 million worth of bets in November, up from $434.6 million in October.

But while the handle increased, it didn’t spike nearly as much as it did in previous months. Between September and October, by comparison, handle shot up by about $130 million.

It begs the question, why?

Here are three possible reasons.

Fewer sports in November than October

It’s worth noting that handle numbers declined in November for Pennsylvania and Nevada, two of the three states ahead of Illinois in monthly totals.

Simply put, there weren’t as many sports to bet on in November as there were in October.

Due to a wacky 2020 sports calendar, the NBA Finals were in October this year. And as usual, the MLB Playoffs ran throughout the entire month.

The NFL and college football were constants in both months, but taking away MLB and NBA likely had an effect.

College basketball kicked off its season in November, but not until the 25th.

As we mentioned earlier, Pennsylvania and Nevada handle numbers declined in November. Other states, such as Indiana, experienced a similar increase (up about $20 million month over month) to Illinois.

But the Indiana market is much more mature than the Illinois market, so even with fewer sports, it’s surprising that we didn’t see a higher jump.

Did lack of retail betting have an effect on Illinois?

COVID-19 exploded in Illinois in November, and Gov. JB Pritzker shut down all casinos on Nov. 20.

But even before that, casinos were reducing capacity from 50% to 25% and limiting hours. It’s also possible that consumers were more reluctant to go to a sportsbook in the days leading up to Nov. 20, considering Illinois’ soaring numbers.

Online sports betting is king in Illinois, but retail accounts for a noteworthy chunk of the monthly handle.

In October, retail sportsbooks took in $24.8 million worth of bets. In November, that number dropped to $15.5 million.

By comparison, online handle increased month over month by about $24 million. Had retail experienced the same growth, the final tally would have been about $26.5 million, $11 million higher than the actual figure.

In that case, handle would have been about $460 million. So, while casino closures weren’t the full reason handle didn’t rise as much as expected, they certainly played a role.

A lack of new operators in Illinois

Illinois has had five online sportsbooks since mid-September. Most markets, such as New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Indiana, have far more than that.

Three more sportsbooks — Barstool, BetMGM and Unibet — are expected to launch within the next few months.

Those should help juice the market, potentially reaching new customers and doling out promotional dollars, which should entice more people to bet.

One more note …

One thing that jumps out in the latest revenue report is just how much of an edge the top three operators currently have.

DraftKings, BetRivers and FanDuel combined to account for 92% of November handle in Illinois, a staggering number.

It’s typical for DraftKings and FanDuel, but not as much so for BetRivers. It was the first retail and online sportsbook in Illinois, though.

And while DraftKings has emerged as the market leader, BetRivers is still doing huge numbers on a monthly basis, posting $133.1 million in November handle.

It’s also curious that PointsBet’s handle dropped by over 50% to just $26.2 million in November. DraftKings, BetRivers, FanDuel and William Hill all increased their totals from October.

Right now, it looks like PointsBet’s $60.8 million October clip was the outlier instead of a sign of things to come.

PointsBet has prioritized the Illinois market, inking an exclusive sports betting partnership with the Chicago Bears and frequently advertising on the local NBC Sports affiliate.

Its November downturn is curious, and its December performance will be one of the most interesting nuggets on the report.

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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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