Why Illinois Sportsbooks Made 6X More Money In October

Written By Joe Boozell on December 23, 2020

Illinois posted $434.6 million in sports betting handle in October, a sharp increase from $305.2 million in September.

While that’s a significant jump, it pales in comparison to how much revenue growth the Illinois sportsbooks enjoyed.

In September, sportsbooks in Illinois collectively profited $6.8 million. That number multiplied just over six times in October to $42.2 million.

Here’s a look at the September revenue splits:

LicenseeOnline BrandTotal HandleOnline HandleRetail HandleTotal RevenueState TaxLocal Tax
Casino QueenDraftKings$98,316,259$95,920,730$2,395,529$2,045,757$33,263$0
Grand VictoriaWilliam Hill$2,216,866$1,331,231$885,635$496,215$12,173$95
Hollywood JolietN/A$1,141,444$0$1,141,444$158,037$20,160$0
Hollywood AuroraN/A$1,088,023$0$1,088,023$145,492$17,276$0

Compared to October:

LicenseeOnline BrandTotal HandleOnline HandleRetail HandleTotal RevenueState TaxLocal Tax
Casino QueenDraftKings$141,416,340$138,474,252$2,942,087$13,207,233$1,722,457$115,342
Grand VictoriaWilliam Hill$5,600,506$4,274,205$1,326,301$1,563,631$92,243$3,223
Hollywood JolietN/A$1,429,774$0$1,429,774$275,873$33,295$0
Hollywood AuroraN/A$1,214,434$0$1,214,434$322,313$43,708$0

In September, BetRivers was the only sportsbook to profit at least $1 million in Illinois.

In October, four sportsbooks profited at least $5 million. And three — BetRivers, DraftKings and FanDuel — profited at least $10 million.

Hold percentage is calculated as revenue divided by total handle. In September, hold percentage was 2.2%. That shot up to 9.7% in October. For context, the industry standard is about 5%-6%.

So, why was October in Illinois different? Here’s what we know.

The luck of the bounce

While 5%-6% may be industry standard in terms of hold percentage, the number can vary in either direction within a small sample.

Simply put, games went against the betting public quite a bit in October. In September, the public enjoyed much more success in Illinois.

That was also true of other markets. Neighboring Indiana, for instance, had a similar 9.1% hold in October, was up significantly from September (though not as much of a spike as Illinois).

Patrick Eichner, the director of communications for PointsBet, told PlayIllinois:

“October, across the board, was good for the book. It could just be a byproduct of the October slate as a whole being a bit more beneficial for the books versus in the early going, where the clients made an absolute killing betting on overs.”

Bears start to lose, promotional credits

The hometown Bears also began their downturn in October after an unlikely 3-0 September. They finished 2-2 in the month, and while that’s not bad, the Chicago Bears are a liability for Illinois sportsbooks most weeks.

In effect, the Bears performed as expected in October, instead of unusually good.

That’s part of the reason September revenues were down. Side note: the Bears went 0-4 in November, and we’ll see if that reflects in the upcoming November revenue report.

Eichner said:

“Based on what we’ve seen, if you compare bettors nationally versus bettors in Illinois, Bears fans, specifically, love to back their team. And even if there’s limited faith in the Bears, the most diehard of fans would rather find a player prop than betting on the Packers to smack their favorite team.”

There were also noticeably less promotional credits handed out in October than in September.

In September, DraftKings and FanDuel had just launched, while PointsBet and William Hill went live in the middle of the month.

DraftKings, FanDuel and PointsBet were particularly aggressive with their customer acquisition strategy, frequently offering no-brainer bets. For a stretch, it felt like there was free money being handed out every other day.

Those certainly didn’t disappear in October, but they certainly slowed down. There were still plenty of generous odds boosts and such, but not as many “Bears +105s,” for instance.

More sportsbook revenue good for Illinois

Because tax figures are a percentage of revenue, not handle, the state of Illinois has to be pleased with the October numbers.

Prior to October, the most Illinois had ever added to its coffers from sports betting was $1.2 million in August.

Sports betting generated $6.8 million in tax revenue for the state in October, shattering the previous record by about six times.

The arrow is also pointing up from here.

While October’s hold percentage was abnormally high, handle should continue to grow in the Land of Lincoln. Therefore, so should sportsbook and tax revenue.

There are only five online sportsbooks in Illinois right now, a number that should expand to at least eight in 2021.

We won’t get the December revenue report until February, but the final month of 2020 promises to be a big one for sportsbooks.

The NFL, college football and college basketball are in full swing, while the NBA is also kicking off its season.

Operators have prioritized the Illinois market for a long time. Looking at the October revenue report, it’s easy to see why.

Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn / AP
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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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