Ranking The 8 Best Illinois Gambling Stories Of 2022

Written By Dave Briggs on December 27, 2022 - Last Updated on January 4, 2023
PlayIllinois weighs in with its picks for the biggest 2022 stories in the booming Illinois sportsbook and casino industry.

By many measures, it was a huge year for Illinois sportsbooks and casinos.

PlayIllinois presents the eight best stories of 2022 in the Illinois gambling industry, with a couple of honorable mentions to boot.

1. Illinois sports betting boom

Illinois sports betting experienced a boom in 2022, including its first billion-dollar handle month in October (the most recent month reported by the Illinois Gaming Board). The boom is due, in part, to the decision to allow online sportsbook registration as of March 5. Prior to that, IL sports bettors had to sign up in person at retail sportsbooks in the state. Today, some 94% of all sports bets are made online.

Beyond surpassing the billion-dollar handle mark in October (which makes Illinois just the fourth state to do so), other notable sports betting records in 2022 included:

  • Illinois jumping over New Jersey into second place in the US in year-to-date sports betting revenue in September.
  • IL sports betting handle grew 82% between August and October, thanks, in part to the return of the NFL.
  • Illinois sports betting gross gaming revenue topped $1 billion, lifetime, in August. Sports betting has been legal in the Prairie State since June 2019.
  • Illinois ranks third in the US in year-to-date handle behind New York and New Jersey. Illinois is fourth in both lifetime handle (over $16.5 billion) and revenue (nearly $1.3 billion) behind New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

2. Bally’s Chicago casino edges close to reality

It’s been an eventful year for the $1.7 billion Bally’s Chicago casino mega-project. In May, the city of Chicago approved Bally’s as the winning bidder on the downtown casino, which is expected to open in 2026. A temporary casino at the Medinah Temple is expected to open in June 2023.

Here’s a timeline of events on the Chicago casino project since getting the green light from Chicago city council:

  • May 5, 2022: Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot selects the winning casino bidder for the city of Chicago.
  • Sept. 9, 2022: Lightfoot announces the formation of a council that aims to gather community input regarding the construction of Bally’s casino, which plans to open a temporary casino in River North before the permanent location opens in River West.
  • Sept. 12, 2022: Bally’s applies for an Illinois sportsbook license.
  • Oct. 17 2022: Bally’s signs a deal with organized labor to build the casino.
  • Nov. 21, 2022: Bally’s closes on a $200 million deal this month to purchase the Freedom Center printing plant site from Nexstar Media Group. The facility, which currently prints the Chicago Tribune, will be the site of the permanent casino.
  • Dec. 14, 2022: Chicago City Council grants zoning approval for Bally’s Chicago in River West. Bally’s still requires approval from the Illinois Gaming Board.

3. Illinois casinos rebound after two difficult pandemic years

After two tough pandemic years in which Illinois casinos were closed many months, 2022 was a rebound year for the industry. In fact, the 2022 adjusted gross revenue at Illinois’ 11 casinos through November of more than $1.234 billion was up marginally compared to revenue of $1.23 billion through November of 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. Though, total casino admissions through November of 2019 of more than 9.5 million is still higher than this year’s total of more than 8.3 million.

During the start of the pandemic in 2020, IL casinos were closed from March 16 through June 30. That was the largest factor in a year-to-date revenue drop of 70% from 2019 to 2020 (through November). The numbers improved slightly in 2021, though pandemic restrictions obviously kept some casino gamblers home. In 2021, revenue through November was up 193% compared to 2020.

4. Illinois sportsbook licenses remain open

Despite being one of the biggest sports betting markets in the US, Illinois has stalled at seven sportsbook operators. And, 14 slots remain open for operators to jump into the market.

Price of entry is certainly an issue. Currently, the minimum price for a sportsbook license is $5 million. The price to come into the market while tethered to an original retail casino license holder was 5% of adjusted gross receipts — or a percentage of handle in the case of the two horse racing tracks. The actual price ranged from about $2.3 million to $10 million.

For any new casino or track, it’s still based on a percentage, but the minimum cost is $5 million. A license to operate a sportsbook at a professional sports facility costs $10 million.

There are three online-only sportsbook licenses available that do not require a tether to a retail casino. But, they do cost $20 million for a license. Currently, there are no applicants an online-only license. The Illinois Gaming Board  reopened those slots for bids as of Nov. 1. The window for bids closes on March 1, 2023.

When the IGB first made online-only licenses available in August 2021, only four relatively-weak operators applied.

The only nearly-successful applicant was Tekkorp, an investment group connected to one of Mexico’s leading gaming companies, Caliente. But Tekkorp announced in October that it was no longer pursing a sportsbook license in Illinois.

All that said, an eighth sportsbook operator, Circa, will launch when a temporary casino in Waukegan opens sometime soon. Circa leads PlayIllinois’ list of sportsbooks most likely to come next to Illinois.

5. Illinois set a total gambling record in fiscal year 2022

Counting all gambling, it was a record fiscal year in Illinois. For the 2022 fiscal year that ended on June 30, Illinois produced a record $1.9 billion in gambling revenue easily surpassing the previous best of some $1.4 billion recorded in the Prairie State in 2019.

In FY 2022, Illinois set revenue records for:

  • Lottery: $833 million
  • Video gaming: $762 million
  • Sports betting: $142 million

6. Illinois duo hits Mega Millions for $1.337 billion

In September, a duo from Illinois hit what was, at that time, the third largest lottery prize in US history. The Mega Millions jackpot was $1.337 billion.

The pair, who chose to remain anonymous, came forward nearly two months after the win, said Illinois Lottery officials. The duo purchased a single ticket in late July in a Chicago suburb. Reportedly, the winners agreed to split the prize if they won. That means each new multi-millionaire gets over $668 million.

In December, a single ticket purchased in California won the largest lottery prize in US history, a jackpot of $2.04 billion. That makes the Illinois Mega Millions score now the fourth largest in history. Other than the $2 billion prize, tickets for $1.586 billion in 2016 and $1.537 billion in 2018 have been cashed.

7. Illlinois sportsbooks coming to Wrigley Field and United Center

Illinois sports betting has evolved to the point of having sportsbooks at some of the state’s greatest sports venues.

In June, construction started on the DraftKings Sportsbook at Wrigley Field. It should be open by Opening Day in April. Though, the Illinois Gaming Board still needs to approve it for betting.

The sportsbook will be able to play host to some 1,000 gamblers. And, it will feature a 2,000-square-foot video screen to display all sorts of stats, scores and Cubs betting odds.

Across town at the United Center, the FanDuel Sportsbook Lounge is complete and ready for betting. Yet, it too needs the green light from the IGB. For now, it is operating as a high-end sports lounge during Bulls and Blackhawks’ games.

The FanDuel sportsbook is 1,300-square-feet and filled with LED screens broadcasting all the biggest games each night.

It also offers a unique food menu compared to what you’ll find in the concourse of the United Center. Popular items sold in the FanDuel Lounge include:

  • Smoked gouda bacon dip
  • Wagyu hot dogs
  • Homemade pizza
  • Spicy pork nachos

8. Super Bowl betting up in Illinois, but not great

Illinois sports bettors wagered $60.5 million on the 2022 Super Bowl. That was good for a $9.5 million profit resulting in $1.43 million in state tax revenue. The hold rate was 15.7%.

The year prior, the Illinois handle on the Super Bowl was $45.6 million, with operators earning $7.66 million in revenue.

Still, the increase from 2021 to 2022 was expected to be higher. That likely will happen for the 2023 Super Bowl for two reasons:

  1. Illinois sportsbooks did away with in-person sportsbook registratio after the 2022 Super Bowl. That means it is now much easier for Illinoisans to sign up online with operators.
  2. Given the increase in sports betting handle in Illinois in 2022 — and the fact it is one of the leading sports betting markets in the US — betting on the next Super Bowl is expected to set records.

Honorable mentions

While not fitting, exactly, into the top Illinois gambling stories of 2022, we did want to draw your attention to some other content PlayIllinois published in 2022.

Robyn McNeil’s history of gambling in Illinois series

This terrific, on-going series launched in October and has covered the rich history of Illinois gambling, so far, from Chicago’s first true crime lord Michael Cassius McDonald through the Chicago Black Sox scandal.

Part 2 tells the story of Chicago’s Mont Tennes. For years, he was the undisputed gambling czar in the US.

In part 3, McNeil introduces readers to more people, places and events that shaped the state’s early gambling years.

Part 4 features John “Mushmouth” Johnson, Chicago’s black gambling king.

Parts 5 and 6 detail the Chicago Black Sox scandal where members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the 2019 World Series.

Even better news is there is more to come in this series in 2023.

How to talk to your teenager about gambling

As the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling points out, informing teenagers about the dangers of gambling should involve the same amount of education and funding as similar high-risk behaviors.

Gambling education is severely underfunded, Keith Whyte said. It falls well short when compared to other public health issues.

As the proliferation of gambling continues, PlayIllinois felt it was important to provide some tips and resources for how to talk to your teenager about gambling.

Dave Briggs Avatar
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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in North America with an emphasis on the casino, sports betting, horse racing and poker sectors. He is currently reporting on the gaming industries in Illinois and Canada.

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