Illinoisans May Have Bet Over $200 Million On March Madness Alone

Written By Joe Boozell on April 21, 2021
IL march madness handle

Illinois posted at least $176.8 million in March Madness sports betting handle, and that’s excluding one operator, according to Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) Administrator Marcus Fruchter.

IL sportsbooks profited at least $14.6 million, resulting in a minimum of $2.1 million in tax revenue. We don’t know which operator is excluded from the numbers.

With the preliminary numbers reported during Wednesday morning’s IGB meeting, sportsbooks held 8.3% of the total handle. Complete March numbers will likely be released in a few weeks, and Illinois may set an all-time record for monthly handle.

The IGB said that Illinoisans wagered $45.6 million on the Super Bowl, so the Prairie State is certainly showing out for big events. And several sportsbooks reported app outages during the Super Bowl.

This is the first March Madness in which sports betting has been legal in the Land of Lincoln, so we don’t have historical data points to compare. However, at first glance, the $176.8 million figure appears to be quite high.

By the time the mystery operator reports numbers, the handle could crack $200 million.

Of course, the handle could have been even higher.

Why Illinois March sports betting handle could be gaudier

While the $178.6 million mark is impressive, it could have been even higher if Illinoisans could have bet on state college teams during March Madness.

Illinois and Loyola-Chicago both made the NCAA Tournament, and even faced each other in the Round of 32.

Of course, it’s illegal to bet on in-state college teams in the Land of Lincoln. That was never more apparent — and frustrating — to Illinois bettors than it was in March.

A DraftKings spokesperson told PlayIllinois during the tournament that Illinois vs. Loyola-Chicago drew its second-largest handle of all Sunday Round of 32 games, and that was without any bets from Illinois.

Hopefully by next year’s March Madness, the ban will be removed. There is a proposed bill that would do so.

Though, of course, the return of in-person registration is the more pressing issue. And that may be with us for quite a while.

Barstool went live before March Madness betting

Illinois had been stuck on five online sportsbooks since mid-September, until Barstool Sportsbook launched on March 11.

That was during conference tournaments, so Barstool was live for the entirety of the NCAA Tournament.

It will be fascinating to see how Barstool stacks up against key competitors in the state, as its launch numbers are crucial. Without online registration in April and beyond, Barstool is going to have a hard time gaining ground on the likes of DraftKings, FanDuel, etc.

Photo by Darron Cummings / AP
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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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