Befitting the third-largest sports betting market in 2023, there was plenty of action in Illinois last year.

There was a new mobile operator in Circa Sports, which also took the reins at The Temporary in Waukegan for retail wagering. But even without the Las Vegas-based sportsbook’s entrance and three new retail venues opening throughout the year, existing operators across Illinois were taking more bets with higher handle — and winning more revenue.

A compilation of 2023 monthly sports betting reports published by the Illinois Gaming Board showed there were more than 324 million wagers placed at either retail sportsbooks or online via sports betting apps, which comes out to nearly one per person in the United States. The IGB is one of the few states that publishes wagering volume in addition to handle and revenue, and there were interesting nuggets with practically every column sort.

Let’s talk parlays

It has been long established that Illinois bettors love their parlays. They do not necessarily fare well with such wagers — the statewide hold in 2023 was 17.7% — but they love them all the same. Out of those 324 million-plus bets placed in 2023, a whopping 196.8 million of them were parlays. That comes out to almost 16 parlays per person among the 12.5 million Land of Lincoln residents.

Out of those 196.8 million parlay wagers, more than 106 million of them came online via FanDuel. That is not a surprise considering FanDuel was the first mover in the same-game parlay space and has extended every effort to maintain that advantage both in Illinois and nationwide. It also represented more than two-thirds of FanDuel’s 154.5 million wagers accepted in Illinois last year and more than one-third of its near-$4 billion handle.

DraftKings being No. 2 with 66.3 million accepted parlay bets was also status quo. It was the only other mobile sportsbook that had parlays account for more than 50% of its tickets written, and the $1.16 billion handle was nearly 30% of its $3.91 billion worth of overall bets accepted.

The plot twist came with BetRivers taking third with 7.3 million parlay bets placed with $227.9 million handle. This marked a substantial pivot away from single-event betting compared to 2022: Parlays represented 47.9% of all tickets written and 24% of handle for BetRivers last year compared to 11% of tickets and 6.2% of handle in 2022.

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ESPN BET‘s near two months of action following its mid-November rollout show that 2024 might have even more multi-leg action. Nearly 47% of the 3.8 million bets in November and December were parlays, but the 1.8 million parlay wagers represented 53% of all parlays placed through either ESPN BET or predecessor Barstool Sportsbook in 2023. The higher volume also meant a lower amount wagered — the average parlay bet in the first 10 months via Barstool was $37.37; it was $29.77 in November and December.

The average parlay wager statewide was $17.16, though the 2.1 million placed at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks averaged $49.69 compared to the $16.81 through their digital counterparts. There was slightly more balance in terms of percentage of tickets written in person: Parlays accounted for 54.4% of all tickets written and represented 30.1% of the $351.2 million handle.

Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, located on the outskirts of Chicago, dragged those averages higher. Sixty percent of its tickets were parlays, and the average parlay wager was $86.97 — the highest of any operator either retail or mobile.

All those parlay wagers added up to a lot of sportsbook revenue and state tax monies. The house made $599 million off parlay wagers, up 41.6% from 2022 as handle skyrocketed 50.3% to $3.38 billion. Bettors actually fared better in 2023 than 2022, knocking down the hold more than one full percentage point.

In a touch of gallows’ humor, it is not surprising Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker recently called to more than double the tax rate on sports betting revenue to 35%. The state reaped $89.9 million in taxes solely from parlay revenue at 15% in 2023; it would have been $209.7 million at 35%. The near-$120 million difference would have provided 60% of the estimated $200 million the state projected with the increase.

Bettors are good at single-event wagering

Lost in some of the mind-numbing parlay figures is that Illinois bettors are fairly good when it comes to single-event betting. There were 127.7 million such wagers placed in 2023 totaling $8.24 billion in handle, and the public held the house to a 4.9% hold overall.

One of the more amusing, or misery-inducing, common threads to single-event wagering in Illinois is the betting public could have and likely did tail the struggles of Chicago’s pro teams throughout 2023. The White Sox lost 101 games. The Blackhawks had the second-lowest point total in the NHL but won the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. The Bears finished last in the NFC North.

The Cubs were the only one of the eight professional teams in the “Windy City” to post a winning record, but failed to make the playoffs after finishing 83-79. The Bulls reached the play-in portion of the NBA postseason, but were stopped one game shy of being in the playoffs proper. The Sky, Fire, and Red Stars were all also-rans.

Operators had sub-5% holds in all three sports with the most action — basketball, football, and baseball. The win rate for baseball and football hovered at 4.5%, and basketball was below 4%. The combined handle for the trio of sports was $5.64 billion, while the house netted $239.2 million.

There were few sports operators cracked the 7% industry standard hold. For sports with a minimum $100 million handle, golf had the highest win rate at 9.8%, followed by boxing and MMA at 8.1%. Illinois sportsbooks collected more revenue from tennis than baseball in 2023, posting a 6.9% hold to collect $62.7 million compared to the $53.2 million from baseball.

Hockey was another sport where operators failed to notch a 5% hold, landing at 4.8% against $272.4 million handle. They fared much better with soccer bets, posting a 6.7% win rate in claiming $34.2 million in winnings from $512.6 million in bets placed.

Tennis is a well-represented sport when it comes to Illinois sports betting. The $913.5 million handle was fourth among all sport categories, and the average wager of $94.46 was the highest of any sport. Soccer had the second-highest average wager amount among sports at $62.16, though it was third overall behind the catch-all “other” category ($68.35). At $60.97, baseball was the only other sport to have an average wager above $60.

Who’s betting how much with whom

In a limited sample size following its late September launch, Circa Sports averaged a jaw-dropping $416.37 per mobile wager in its three-plus months of action that totaled more than 74,000 bets. Among the seven holdovers, Caesars had the highest average wager among mobile sportsbooks at $125.38 and was the only one above $100.

PointsBet ($63.91), BetRivers ($61.90), and ESPN BET ($60.87) all averaged better than $60 per bet, while BetMGM rounded out the top five at $47.80. The heavy volume of parlay wagering dragged down the averages of DraftKings ($33.85) and FanDuel ($25.82) as they were the bottom two.

The average mobile wager was worth $35.79, but the average single-event bet placed online was more than 80% higher at $64.51. FanDuel’s single-event bet average of $54.15 was more than double its overall average wager, while the average single-event bet at Caesars was a vertical-leading $162.53. PointsBet ($90.39) and BetRivers ($90.16) were the only other mobile books to average more than $90 per wager on single-event action.

On the retail side, Rivers Casino had an overall average wager of $155.41 thanks in large part to single-event bets averaging $257.36. That led all legacy venues — The Temporary in Waukegan where Circa Sports operates retail betting averaged $263.06 the final three-plus months of 2023.

Eight of the 12 retail sportsbooks in Illinois averaged $100 or more for single-event wagers in 2023, with the overall average for such action $137.37, and three of the other four averaged at least $80. Bally’s, which recently opened a brick-and-mortar sportsbook in Quad Cities near the Iowa border, averaged $15.17 on its first 606 bets.

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