Statistics Prove Illinois Sports Bettors Are Among The Best In The Nation

Written By C.J. Pierre on June 7, 2023
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Sports betting is becoming more popular across the country every passing day. More states are legalizing sports wagering, and more online sportsbooks are launching.

In Illinois, the online sports betting market consistently ranks as the second biggest in the United States. The total bets at the seven Illinois online sportsbooks has gone over $1 billion in five of the last six months.

With so much money being bet at Illinois online sports betting sites, one might wonder how well sports bettors in The Prairie State are doing against the books and how well they are doing compared to the other 28 states that have legal sports betting. PlayIllinois peeled through the numbers that suggest Illinois bettors aren’t doing too badly.

Illinois near the top of the pack in sports betting win rate

Top sports betting states ranked from least to greatest lifetime hold percentages infographic

Looking at a state’s hold percentage is one of the ways to determine how well sports bettors are doing in a particular state. The hold percentage is the margin the sportsbook takes on both sides of a game. In other words, the lower the hold percentage, the more the bettors are winning.

Though, comparing states based on hold percentage can be a bit tricky. How much sportsbooks spend in promotions — particularly when sports betting launches in a state — can impact the hold percentage. It’s one of the reasons Ohio’s hold rate is a whopping 15% through the first four months sports betting has been legal in the Buckeye State.

But, in more established sports betting jurisdictions such as Illinois, hold is a decent indicator of bettor skill.

By that measure, things are going decently for sports bettors in Illinois.

Since legal sports wagering launched in June 2020, Illinois sportsbooks have recorded an 8% hold. In terms of lifetime sports betting, Illinois is tied with Pennsylvania for the sixth lowest win rate among states with legal sports wagering.

States ranked by lifetime sports betting hold percentage:

RankStateHold% / Win Rate
4.New Jersey7.1%
5.New Hampshire7.4%
9.West Virginia8.3%
11.New York8.5%

Why Illinois sports bettors rank 6th in the nation

Nevada is considered the gold standard for in-person betting. However, the state hasn’t legalized online sports wagering. The state requires bettors to enter a casino to register in person before placing a bet online. Add in the fact that Nevada is a state where most professional bettors do business; it stands to reason that the state would have the lowest hold percentage.

Meanwhile, based on hold percentage, Illinois bettors are better than those in New York, the country’s number one sports betting jurisdiction based on handle and revenue. New York is tied at 11th with Michigan at 8.5%.

New Jersey, Illinois’ chief sports betting rival for the number 2 spot in the nation, fares better than the Land of Lincoln on hold at 7.1%. In 2018, New Jersey became the first state to launch online sports betting.

Meanwhile, Colorado (6.8%) has had legal sports wagering for about the same amount of time as Illinois. However, there is a gap between the hold percentages of the two states. If you look at bettors in a state like Arizona, where sports betting launched in 2021, they aren’t too far behind folks in Illinois at 8.1%.

At the same time, sports betting operators are cleaning up in Delaware, which has the highest hold percentage at 19.9%. That is a huge difference compared to what’s happening in Illinois.

Illinois benefits from being sports-loving state

States with prominent pro and college sports teams tend to also be home to experienced bettors have succeeded against the books. Meanwhile, bettors in states such Delaware, Montana and South Dakota, where there are no pro teams and no college powerhouses, are struggling. Things may change five years from now when these states gain more betting experience and more new states join the party.

A passion for sports in Illinois, and the plethora of pro and college teams in the state, clearly is helping drive the success of sports bettors in the Prairie State.

The betting math

You will likely find several sports betting ads if you take a casual scroll through social media. But that isn’t the only way sportsbooks are getting their names spread out there. If you live in a state where sports betting is legal, you will likely see one of your friends posting about a big win they had. Maybe it was a low-risk, high-reward bet on an upset during March Madness.

So many people get wrapped up in the idea of betting big on a sporting event. However, the odds of winning are usually below 50%. The truth is, there are specific landmarks to hit to even make a profit.

Different studies have varying results, but somewhere between 3-5% of all sports bettors are profitable in the long run. Some become very successful gamblers who have spent years perfecting a system that works for them. It takes time, energy and a lot of trial and error. In fact, winning anything above 55% of all bets puts people in the top 3% of all gamblers.

Most people are betting just for fun and make decisions based on how they feel on that particular day. That is why responsible gambling is so important, and you shouldn’t ever bet an amount of money you are uncomfortable losing.

Photo by Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo
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C.J. Pierre

C.J. Pierre is a Lead Writer at Play Illinois. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN and is an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. He recently dove into tribal casino and online gambling news. He also covered the launch of sports betting in Arizona. C.J. has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career, most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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