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  • Illinois and Montana are both celebrating their one-year anniversaries of launching sportsbooks in their states.
  • Due to the huge differences in their market landscapes, Illinois has exceeded expectations in its first year while Montana has done less than expected.

CHICAGO – On March 9, 2020, both Illinois and Montana launched legal sportsbooks statewide and now on their one-year anniversaries, it can be seen that the industries have brought about wildly different outcomes for their first year in business.

Illinois has flourished during a year riddled with various standstills because of the Coronavirus Pandemic while Montana has not fared as well.

Although dealing with the same problems as the rest of the nation, it is in the way that these markets have been structured to operate that have ultimately set them apart in how successful they’ve done since their debuts.

Illinois Sports Betting

Illinois sports betting has skyrocketed in popularity as more mobile sports betting platforms join their industry. There are over a handful of land-based sportsbooks in the state but the retail handle doesn’t hold a candle to online outlets. Most of the brick-and-mortar locations surround the Chicago area or other metropolitan parts of Illinois.

However, with the outbreak of COVID-19, sports bettors of Illinois have been relying heavily on mobile sportsbooks to get action in on the games that have resumed playing since July 2020.

Although the law requires in-person registration to access these internet sports betting platforms, Governor JB Pritzker has continued to lift that requirement through the Pandemic, allowing residents to sign up and gamble on sports remotely.

Reaching their one-year anniversary, gamblers in Illinois have access to BetRivers, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, and William Hill mobile applications. Barstool Sportsbook is rumored to be joining that list some time this month. From March 2020 through December 2020, almost $2 billion was wagered on sports in Illinois per the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) reports. And 95% of that activity was done via mobile sportsbook operations.

This will serve as the main factor for the juxtaposition between Illinois and Montana’s one-year numbers within the exact same timeframe.

Montana Sports Betting

Montana sports betting had a rocky start. The Montana Lottery’s sports betting application Sports Bet Montana powered by INTRALOT was not a popular sell with gamblers in the state. The odds and wagers listed were less than appealing to many when compared to other outlets which caused a lack of engagement. Projections showed a much higher rate of activity than what was taking place.

Gamblers in Montana only have access to this one application to bet on sports, leaving them at a disadvantage, although things have become considerably better as kinks have been worked out. Kiosks operated by the Montana Lottery are operational at multiple locations but hold the same bets and odds like that of Sports Bet Montana.

The lottery will have the monopoly on the sports wagering business for at least the next six years as state law has allowed them seven years to be the sole operator of the industry.

Nearly two hundred million dollars was expected in handle at the launch of the sports wagering market in Montana but reports from the Montana Lottery do not show nearly what was expected for the first year of business. With the limited options available to residents, it’s not much of a stretch to see where the problems have been placed in the path to bigger profit margins.

What’s Next

Legal sports betting in Illinois and Montana have both succeeded in reaching their one-year anniversaries. Illinois is expected to continue its upward trajectory as one of the top sports wagering states in the nation. Montana is also slowly getting better with sports bettors as more open up to using Sports Bet Montana.

The one constant about the sports betting industry is that it is in a continuous state of change which means that Montana can tweak their structure to become a more profitable industry for the state down the line just like Illinois can open its market to more operators that would likely result in more dividends.

Anything is possible when talking about gambling, but for now, it’s about acknowledging two states in the nation that are celebrating one full year of efficacious legal sportsbook operations.

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