PlayUSA Rewind: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa Sports Betting All Take Off Thanks To Football Season

Written By Grant Lucas on October 13, 2020 - Last Updated on June 5, 2022

Here’s some not-so-breaking news: Legalized sports betting has gone bananas during football season.

Look no further than three states in the Midwest as an example.

On to the Rewind:

Midwest states report gains in sports betting revenue

Legalized sports betting continues to grow in the Midwest, both in volume and number of operators.

Sports betting in Illinois took a big step forward in August, not only in regulated sportsbooks opening but also in betting action.

With the pool of online sportsbooks growing to three operators and total regulated sportsbooks increasing to seven, Illinois sports betting attracted a whopping $139.8 million in wagers. Compare that total with July, when sportsbooks reported just $51.4 million in handle.

While DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook ultimately went online in August, BetRivers was the lone online provider to benefit from an entire month of operations, reporting nearly $118 million in August handle. DraftKings posted $14 million ($1.3 million per day online), and FanDuel accepted $4.1 million ($1 million per day online).

All told, 94% of all wagers in Illinois were placed online, proving the value of legalized betting apps.

In nearby Indiana, the return of football helped sports betting reach another state record, as sportsbooks combined for $207 million in September handle, topping the previous high of $187 million set in February. September’s haul is also a jump from August’s $169 million.

Ameristar — with partners DraftKings and theScore — paced the industry with just over $95 million in handle, nearly 95% of which came online. The Hoosier state saw 83.4% of wagers placed via Indiana betting apps, a relatively low number compared with other states. Unsurprisingly, football proved the most popular market as bettors wagered $48 million on the sport in September.

Like seemingly every other state, Iowa enjoyed a boom in regulated wagering with college football and the NFL returning to action. In September, sportsbooks in the state accepted more than $72 million in wagers, besting the industry’s previous high of $59.34 million set in November 2019. Interestingly, just 69% of bets came via betting apps.

William Hill sat atop the industry with $18.3 million in handle, including $16.97 million wagered online.

Multistate expansion in store for Barstool Sportsbook?

Barstool Sportsbook remains relatively new to the legal sports betting world. Yet the operator appears to have possible plans in place for quick expansion.

Now in its second month of operations in Pennsylvania, Barstool has an avenue to the Michigan sports betting space. Greektown Casino-Hotel made it known that it intends to open a Barstool-branded permanent sportsbook in late November.

Such a timeline falls in line with the state’s expectation to greenlight online sports betting in time for Thanksgiving. That said, there is no guarantee that a Barstool betting app would go live that early. Penn National Gaming, parent company to Barstool, is reportedly still finalizing launch plans.

If that weren’t enough, Barstool could have an available road to get in on the New Jersey sports betting action.

Freehold Raceway, co-owned by Penn National, quietly began accepting bets Sept. 24 as New Jersey’s 11th retail sportsbook.

Now, three online skins are at Freehold’s disposal, allowing the state to build on its 18 existing betting apps. Considering the shared parent company, it seems logical that Barstool would leverage one of those skins.

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Who will offer online poker in Michigan?

The dream of legal online poker in Michigan has come closer to reality in recent weeks, potentially even allowing players to compete across state lines.

The vertical likely won’t go live until 2021, and no operators have come forward with clear intentions of entering Michigan.

That said, with online poker in the state potentially carrying ample value, heavy hitters such as PartyPoker and PokerStars will almost assuredly consider putting down roots in Michigan. There will be plenty of room, after all, as state law will allow all Detroit and tribal casinos to use one online skin for poker.

The Stars Group was among the first online gambling companies to land a land-based partner in the state, allowing the PokerStars brand to potentially operate under the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Osaka Indians Gaming Authority license.

As for PartyPoker, the entity Roar Digital could gain access to Michigan via MGM Grand Detroit.

Even could gain entry into Michigan. William Hill has a partnership with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and recently entered into an agreement for Caesars to purchase the company.

As a result, and with William Hill not owning a poker vertical, the Caesars poker brand WSOP could make its way into the state.

No doubt a multitude of other online poker providers could express interest.

Photo by Steven Senne / Associated Press
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf throughout his career.

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