Depending on your age, you probably wouldn't have believed it if someone had told you 20 years ago that someday Illinois would be raking in the cash from legalized marijuana and sports gambling. Two things that were definitely illegal "back in the day" are now hauling in piles of money.

I've spilled enough ink lately on these pages writing about recreational marijuana sales, not necessarily as an advocate, but as a somewhat-interested observer. The same holds true with sports gambling. I have little to no interest in taking part, but many of my friends and co-workers (Joe Dredge, looking at you) are really happy to have legal sports gambling available here in Illinois.

How happy are sports gamblers in Illinois? Enough to drop $581.6 million in bets in January, 98.9% of which came online, according to official data released Wednesday. January's handle (amount of overall wagers) was up 18.3% from $491.7 million in December, fourth most among legal U.S. markets.

After looking at the amount of money wagered on sports here in Illinois, you may be wondering how that translates over to revenue for gaming operators and the State of Illinois. The Illinois Gaming Board says that January's bets pushed Illinois past $2 billion since things became legal, and that January's money generated a record $49.4 million in operator revenue, up 106.8% from $23.9 million in December. For Illinois, it means over $7 million in taxes.

If you're curious to know what sports drew the most bets in January, says:

"Illinois bettors wagered $230 million on basketball, to lead the way. With the NFL playoffs in action, $159 million was bet on football in January. Soccer remained in the fourth slot with $30 million bet, with hockey coming up behind at No. 5 with $17.9 million in wagers.


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