It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that legal sports betting in the United States has accelerated from zero to 100 in barely any time.
Commercial handle across the United States surpassed $100 billion for the 2023 calendar year Tuesday, once Pennsylvania reported record volume of $934.1 million for November that put sportsbooks nationally above the historic milestone. Five states — four of them allowing mobile betting apps — entered the sports betting marketplace at various points in 2023. Newcomers Ohio and Massachusetts made substantial contributions getting the national handle to $100 billion in less than 11 full months of state reporting.
Even with reporting for December yet to start and several November reports from big-market states yet to come — perhaps including the first report from sports betting in Florida — the $100.6 billion is already 7.2% higher than the $93.8 billion in bets accepted in all of 2022. This is just the fifth full year of commercial wagering in the U.S. beyond Nevada, with substantial year-over-year growth in handle in every year.
This October’s collective handle of $12.2 billion is already an all-time record while waiting on Arizona‘s numbers to round out the month’s total. November’s final tally will mark the first time monthly handle will have exceeded $10 billion in three consecutive months, and it is tracking to make October’s number a way station to something bigger.
The 2023 handle has so far accounted for 34.5% of all-time wagering since it became available on a state-by-state basis in June 2018, according to Sports Handle’s sports betting revenue tracker.
Plenty of half-billions, a few billions, and more
There have been 206 instances of a state generating at least $500 million in accepted bets in a month since 2018, with the 74 reported this year already topping the 70 in 2022. Fourteen states now have at least one month with a half-billion dollar handle, with Maryland and Tennessee recently joining Ohio and Massachusetts as newcomers to the club.
New York sports betting has single-handedly changed the calculus for $1 billion handle since entering the mobile arena in January 2022. It has accounted for 10 of the 20 instances of 10-figure month handles this year thanks to having those digital apps available. The Empire State, which has accounted for roughly $1 of every $6 wagered in the U.S. to this point, became the first to cross the $2 billion barrier in October before repeating the feat in November.
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Neighboring New Jersey has seen a resurgence of sorts. It still leads all states with 42 months of $500 million or higher handle, and it ended New York’s stranglehold on the top 10 monthly handles — maybe only temporarily — with its $1.6 billion post in November. The Garden State has slotted three of its five places in the all-time top 20 in the past three months.
The newcomers make an impact
Running 2023 YTD Top 10 #SportsBetting handle (Nov. in CAPS)
1 NEW YORK $17.14B
2 NEW JERSEY $10.69B
3 Illinois $8.93B
4 PENN. $6.76B
5 Nevada ~$6.5B
6 Ohio $5.98B
7 Arizona $4.52B
8 Virginia $4.32B
9 MASS. $4.31B
10 MICHIGAN ~$4.2B#sportsbettingtwitter #gamblingtwitter
— Chris Altruda (@AlTruda73) December 20, 2023
Much was expected of Ohio, which had a lengthy build-up process leading into its New Year’s Day launch of sports betting sites — the largest multi-operator opening post-PASPA. The Buckeye State delivered not only a $1.1 billion-plus handle in January, thanks to a staggering $320 million in bonus offers, but also provided the first and only $200 million operator revenue haul to date for a month.
Football season has seen Ohio narrowly miss $700 million handle in September and come within shouting distance of $750 million in October. The Buckeye State is projecting to a full-year handle of more than $7.25 billon, a notable amount considering Illinois generated $7 billion worth of wagers in its first full calendar year of betting in 2021.
Boston sports fans put Massachusetts on the wagering map as they could finally stay in-state to place mobile bets starting in March, as opposed to crossing state lines into Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, or New Hampshire. Massachusetts has consistently been among the top 10 of monthly handle, reaching $500 million five times and peaking in November at $654 million despite the Patriots slogging through a rare losing season.
Kentucky‘s fall debut also made waves with $340 million worth of bets placed in September and October. The latter marked the first full month of mobile betting in the Bluegrass State, where as in Massachusetts bettors no longer had to venture into bordering states to use digital apps legally.
Solid growth in some large-market states
Though Illinois has fallen back into third in the national pecking order behind New Jersey, it is on pace to surpass $10 billion handle in a year for the first time while enjoying double-digit growth compared to 2022. It reached $1.1 billion in wagers in October after six previous instances of topping $1 billion without that extra 10%.
Virginia sports betting is also trending toward a double-digit increase in handle year-over-year, showing no competitive falloff from neighboring Maryland’s first full year with digital betting available. Virginia and Maryland have both cleared $4 billion in accepted wagers this year, and each of their most recent reports have provided an all-time high.
Tennessee has leveled up and is on track for its first year with $4 billion handle, currently pacing 11% better than 2022. The largest market that is exclusively mobile, the Volunteer State has posted five of its top eight all-time figures in the 2023 calendar year.
It’s the football (and a bit of March Madness)
The sports betting calendar year as it pertains to handle has two seasons: the NFL and the non-NFL. The 18-week regular season provides four-plus months of extensive action in the fall, often reaching a peak in October. This November, however, most states have exceeded the prior month, boosted by impact from ESPN BET‘s arrival.
Looking ahead, the NFL playoffs provide a strong jolt in January, and the Super Bowl provides just enough juice in February to keep the falloff from three fewer days of betting to a minimum. March brings the NCAA Tournament and flocks of casual bettors looking for something beyond their $10 office pool, which this year pushed the monthly total above $11 billion.
Traditional leaders FanDuel and DraftKings have shown a willingness to reach into their pockets to keep up with ESPN BET’s spend on customer enticements, portending an active December in which another $10 billion handle is in the offing. The duo also continue to be the industry’s primary sources of parlay wagering, which are now widely available across mobile apps.
The trend has been for parlays to represent more and more of the betting handle compared to single-event wagering. Eight states among the 32 provide handle figures for parlays in their monthly reports, which have collectively totaled more than $8 billion so far this year.