March 04, 2024

Eye On Illinois: Big game sure to draw big bets in country’s No. 2 online wagering market

San Francisco is a two-point favorite over Kansas City in Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII. If you like both offenses to fire on all cylinders despite nagging quarterback injuries, the over (as of Monday afternoon) was 47.5.

That’s enough football talk from this baseball fan. I’m more of a food/commercials/halftime show guy, but the annual arrival of sports betting’s single biggest day seems like a good occasion to check in on the Illinois market.

This will be the fourth Super Bowl open to legal wagers for Illinoisans. In February 2021, the Illinois Gaming Board reported more than 13.4 million online and in-person bets on pro sports, with a total handle of more than $371 million. In February 2022, the total was more than 16.7 million bets with a handle exceeding $526 million. Last February’s totals exceeded 22.7 million and $654 million.

Those numbers come from igb.illinois.gov, which updates data monthly. PlayIllinois.com, a gambling-centric news site, updates the cumulative totals as the IGB pushes new information. The current count, for bets made from March 9, 2020, through the end of November 2023, is $25.3 billion wagered across all sports and $329,456,593 tax dollars for the state, representing an increase of more than $110 million in one year.

Last February I suggested I might have to eat my hat over repeated criticism about Illinois lawmakers being slow to take advantage of the May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court opinion removing the barrier to legalized sports betting nationwide, but this time around I’m deciding which specific cap to consume. Illinois’ online market is No. 2 in the country and shows no signs of slowing.

Like the occasional updates on the legal marijuana market, I report on sports betting as an observer, not a participant. Outside of fantasy football or a low-stakes squares game, this type of action holds no personal appeal, and I’m a little resistant to how much (and how quickly) betting discourse and advertisement has subsumed sports media. But pot and betting are now massive operations in Illinois, and the tax take has significant influence on state budgets, so they definitely deserve continued attention.

PODCAST PROMOTION: Longtime readers know I’ve been a podcast devotee since the days of burning individual episodes onto CD-Rs for road trip listening. This week I’ll explore Capitol Crimes (soundcloud.com/capitol-crimes), led by House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna. Debut episodes focus on Department of Children and Family Services tragedies.

McCombie said the series will allow lawmakers to discuss bills aimed at safety and government accountability. Host Dean Abbott will explore the origin of proposals and how they fared in the General Assembly. Listeners should expect partisan framing, but anything shedding light on Statehouse machinations helps further inform the electorate.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.