The Illinois Gaming Board released its October numbers on Thursday, reporting more than $435 million in handle—a single-month record in the state’s fourth full month of operations.

Northwestern Wildcats
The Northwestern Wildcats’ surprise success inspired Illinois betters to take to the window in October. After a slow start in mid-March, Illinois’ online sports betting handle rushed past the $1 billion mark this fall. (Image: AP)

More than 94% of the reported October handle was wagered online, according to the IGC.

Online sports gambling operators shattered September’s record of $285 million, a month-over-month jump of just over 43%.

The Prairie State took almost four times as much as September, coming out $42 million on the plus side for $6.3 million in state tax revenue, including a half-million dollars for Cook County alone.

2020 Finishes Strong After Shaky Start

Should Illinois stay on-trend for the remainder of the year, it will likely finish fourth in handle for states with legal sports gambling. New Jersey, Nevada, and Pennsylvania currently occupy the top three slots.

Illinois’ fall surge in handle is even more notable in light of the timing of the state’s opening.

The state’s first legal sports bet was placed at Rivers Casino Des Plaines on March 9. The next week, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most sporting events, including the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.

When major sports came back online with MLB’s first pitch on July 24, Illinoisans responded right away by taking to the betting window. Since then, they’ve wagered more than $941 million and are on track to break the billion-dollar-barrier once November numbers are reported.

October numbers are also the third-straight month of doubling revenue from the month prior. Next door, Indiana (currently sixth in the nation) is also having a strong fall, with $208 million reported in September and $231 million in October.

Easing Regulations During Pandemic Helped Jumpstart State

It wasn’t just the return of sports that convinced Illinois bettors to log in. In response to the pandemic, Gov. J.B. Pritzker eased the rules requiring bettors to register in person at brick-and-mortar casinos, enabling gamblers to register online and start betting immediately under a temporary executive order he put forth in March. The suspension of the rule was made permanent in September.

All online sportsbook operators are still required to partner with a brick-and-mortar casino. Familiar names topped the state’s take in October, starting with DraftKings/Casino Queen, which took in $141 million. BetRivers/Rivers Casino took $116 million in handle for second, and FanDuel/Par-A-Dice Casino was third with $106 million.

Statewide, football was the big draw, taking in $191 million, bolstered by the Chicago Bears and the Big Ten West Champion Northwestern Wildcats. World Series betting buoyed baseball to $62 million for second in handle. Tennis scored with $21 million, finishing a surprising third just above the NBA at $18 million.

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