Believe it or not, Indiana is already celebrating its one-year anniversary of legalized sports betting.
The anniversary marks the start of an industry that has generated millions in revenue for the state, and already garnered $1 billion in handle.
It’s been, considering the context, a successful beginning to what stands to be a consistent money-maker for both government officials and a growing number of sportsbooks.
A conservative state leads the charge
For a state that just recently legalized alcohol sales on Sundays, Indiana’s position at the front of the sports-gambling pack was a surprise for many Hoosiers.
State lawmakers are often hesitant to embrace anything deemed impure or of otherwise questionable morality.
And at the outset of the Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 to legalize sports gambling, it seemed likely it would languish in Indiana alongside slow-walked social issues like decriminalized marijuana.
But, with it hitched to a bill reshaping the state’s casino industry, sports gambling was given the green light by lawmakers and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2019.
Some lawmakers questioned whether doors would be opened to increased gambling addiction and a Wild West of mobile gaming.
Nonetheless, Indiana has in many ways become a beacon of success in the sports gambling industry, showing other Midwest states the way early adoption can become a serious economic driver.
COVID-19 slowed progress, but a major milestone achieved
Like every state with legalized sports gambling, COVID-19 hurt Indiana’s sports betting market.
American sports disappeared. Sportsbooks relied on German soccer and Russian ping-pong in the interim.
Still, Indiana’s recovery in the casino and sports wagering industries has been impressive.
And its initial-year success was on display in August. The state announced it had tallied $1 billion in handle since September 2019’s launch, despite the months-long effect of a pandemic.
Notably, the number of mobile sportsbooks in Indiana has also grown rapidly in a single year. The state now sports eight options for Hoosier bettors.
What is the future of sports gambling in Indiana?
The commonality of sports gambling legalization, specifically its growth in the Midwest, means Indiana will face an increasing amount of competition.
The state has enjoyed the presence of out-of-state bettors crossing state lines. Bettors have taken advantage of Indiana’s remote registration rules and sportsbook geo-tracking technology.
Some of that will continue. But it’s clear sportsbooks will need to grow their Indiana operations. That growth will come by appealing to Hoosiers either disengaged or only lightly involved with sports wagering.
Such efforts are evidenced through FanDuel’s expanded partnership with former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee.
McAfee has a big presence in the state, and the sportsbook builds specialized promotions around him.
But one thing continues to loom over the industry: COVID-19.
It’s difficult to predict Indiana’s long-term sports betting future for the same reason it’s hard to forecast much of anything. No one knows how long the coronavirus will remain a disruption in sports.
The Pacers have departed the bubble, and the NBA may not return this year. The Colts are playing this season, but with limited in-person fan engagement.
In the NFL, it will be closely watched how everyday fans and the casual bets they place will be impacted inside a league so reliant on raucous game-day experiences.
More operators coming soon
Although the future of sports for the upcoming season is still up in the air, one thing is for certain. Indiana’s sports betting market is growing.
BetIndiana and theScore Bet are launching in the state later this year. FOX Bet and William Hill will also launch further down the road.
More operators create a more competitive market. Most will be competing for the third spot in terms of market share behind FanDuel and DraftKings.
It’s time to wait and see how long it takes Indiana to hit the $2 billion handle mark.