Indiana sports wagers top $200 million in September, a new record

The one-year anniversary of the first month of legal sports wagering in Indiana saw a record amount of money bet on the outcome of professional and college sporting events in the United States and around the world.

Data released Friday by the Indiana Gaming Commission show Hoosiers placed $207.5 million in sports bets in September, smashing the prior record handle of $187.2 million set in February, and coming in nearly six times greater than the $35.2 million wagered in September 2019.

Simultaneous action by all the major sports leagues following COVID-19 shutdowns earlier this year likely helped Indiana set a new sports wagering record as the handle was relatively evenly divided between football, basketball, baseball and multi-event or multi-sport parlays. 

"Indiana has benefited from Illinois' relatively slow launch and its inconsistency with in-person registration requirements, buying Indiana time to continue to capitalize on the Chicago market," said Jessica Welman, PlayIndiana.com analyst. 

"Indiana's balanced regulatory framework remains attractive to operators, which has kept the market on relatively firm footing, too. Those factors were key in kicking off the football season in record fashion."

Max Bichsel, U.S. vice president of the Gambling.com Group, said he anticipates Indiana's monthly sports wagering handle soon could top a quarter of a billion dollars. 

"Looking ahead to October, expect wagers to continue to climb to more record numbers, pushing $250 million in handle, as the NBA Finals round out, more NCAA football games (are) added to the docket and (the) NFL hits full steam," Bichsel said. 

The eye-popping sports wagering handle doesn't translate to huge revenues for the state, since sports wagering odds generally are calculated to ensure roughly equal action on both sides of a bet, so losing bettors end up paying the winners.

That means the $207.5 million wagered last month generated just $1.4 million for the state, as Indiana's 9.5% sports wagering tax only is assessed on the sportsbooks' take from each completed bet. 

In contrast, the $170 million in statewide casino "win," or revenue after paying winning slot machine and table games players, last month produced $32.9 million in tax revenue for Indiana.

The statewide win was down $3 million, or 1.9%, compared to August as Indiana's 13 state-regulated casinos last month continued trying to find the right mix of games to attract customer play, notwithstanding COVID-19 capacity and spacing limitations. 

Win at Northwest Indiana casinos was relatively stable from August to September, increasing 0.12% at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, falling 0.42% at Ameristar Casino East Chicago, growing 14.8% at Gary's Majestic Star casinos, and increasing 4.6% at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City.

Kathryn Jenkins, Horseshoe general manager, said the state's most popular gaming facility is now up to 1,225 available slot machines, down from 2,136 pre-pandemic, working to find space for additional table games, and looking at resuming poker and pai gow after the Gaming Commission on Tuesday authorized poker games with up to five players and pai gow with three. 

"Here at the Horseshoe, we are laser-focused on responsibly adding to our operations," Jenkins said.

At the same time, Jenkins acknowledged an unspecified number of Horseshoe employees recently were permanently laid off due to state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions on food and beverage service at casinos and gatherings or events with large numbers of people.

"We're looking forward to one day resuming all of the amenities that we're able to provide to our guests," Jenkins said. "But as of right now, we're not able to provide services, such as beverage service, so therefore we did have to have some layoffs."

On the other hand, Jenkins said the Horseshoe is looking to hire 75 to 100 new table games dealers, and is offering paid training to individuals age 21 and up interested in learning how to deal blackjack.

Dealer school applications are available online at caesarsjobs.com, searching "Hammond" in the location box, and applying at the November blackjack dealer school link.

https://www.nwitimes.com/business/gambling/indiana-sports-wagers-top-200-million-in-september-a-new-record/article_5d05c9b7-b3ca-5585-84ad-bbcfd68636fe.html