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Sports betting in Illinois: growing, but not a fix-all

Devlin D'Zmura, a trending news manager at DraftKings, works on his laptop Sept. 9 at the company's offices in Boston.
Stephan Savoia
Devlin D'Zmura, a trending news manager at DraftKings, works on his laptop Sept. 9 at the company's offices in Boston.

Revenues continue to grow as professional sports maintain schedules and betting options increase

It was a slow start for one of Illinois’ newest revenue sources. But sports betting continues to gather momentum.

“I’m very happy that we have additional money, that this is on the positive side of the equation,” said Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza. “But it’s not anything that I look at as something we could build or forecast our bill payment cycle on.”

Mendoza said tax money raised from sports betting – more than $140 million total since March 2020 – is dedicated to infrastructure repair and replacement around the state.

Here's the breakdown:

Sports betting had just become legal in Illinois on March 9, 2020 when the state’s first legal wager was placed in person at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

COVID-19 forced significant changes and canceled tournaments plus entire seasons. Still, between March and June 30, 2020, gamers placed roughly $9 million in bets across 192,000 separate wagers.

The state earned around $400,000 off those bets.

As COVID restrictions eased in Fiscal Year 2021, more casinos and racetracks added in-person betting options and online wagering began. Revenues increased dramatically that year with most sports trying to resume normal schedules, COVID-related postponements or athlete quarantines notwithstanding.

Fiscal Year 2021 saw bettors place $5.1 billion in wagers over 147 million different transactions. The state generated $380 million in gross revenue and $57 million went into state coffers.

The trend continued in FY ‘22, with 60 percent more revenue over the previous year: $8.5 billion in bets placed over 227 million wagers, generating $610 million in gross revenue and $92 million for the state.

The state’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, or COGFA, seems bullish on the future of sports wagering. It notes there are licenses still to be issued and new revenue streams still coming into focus, like sportsbooks at major venues.

That was allowed starting in December of 2021. A spokesperson says DraftKings is expected to open at Wrigley Field early in the 2023 season.

Alex Degman is a Statehouse reporter with WBEZ.