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Looking Back At A Chaotic 2020 For Indiana Betting

Like many of us, Indiana betting had an up-and-down 2020. After betting handle struggled for a few months, the state rebounded stronger than ever.

Indiana’s strength as a sports betting market was on display in 2020.

In its first full calendar year, the industry had to navigate a sports landscape upended by a once-in-a-generation virus.

Operators bounced back from meager spring months to post the state’s best-ever betting totals in the fall. Threats to Indiana’s success showed themselves to be more smoke than fire.

The market responded to challenges with landmark totals and consistent growth of betting options.

The success of local teams, the normalization of sports betting in a conservative region, and the state’s leadership in the Midwest no doubt aided its success.

And while the spread of legal betting to nearby states is happening, the future of sports wagering in Indiana looks brighter than ever.

Indiana betting market maintains growth despite hurdles

The year got off to a promising start.

Bettors in Indiana wagered more than $170 million in January, up from nearly $162 million in December 2019.

That figure jumped again in February, as the Super Bowl helped Indiana garner $187 million in wagers. Indiana sportsbooks saw more than $11 million in revenue in the year’s second month.

Over $1 million was generated in taxes.

Things were trending upwards.

But then emerged the real story of 2020: COVID-19.

As American sports disappeared – most notably March Madness in basketball-crazed Indiana – so did millions in handle.

Indiana finished with $74 million wagered in March – followed by $26.3 million in April, $37 million in May, and $29 million in June. Hundreds of millions in potential wagers, revenue, and tax dollars were lost.

The bettors that stuck around were left with options ranging from Korean baseball and German soccer to Russian ping-pong (until even it was banned).

Not ideal.

By July, though, the trend had shifted.

Indiana captured $70 million in bets upon the return of pro baseball, basketball, and hockey. The rebound in July also boosted Indiana past a significant milestone. The state surpassed $1 billion in handle since legalization in September 2019.

And the state hasn’t looked back.

The last three months have each set new handle highs:

  • September: $207 million
  • October: $230 million
  • November: $251 million

Indiana shattered personal records despite numerous hurdles, including expanded sports betting in Illinois and chaotic scheduling in fan-favorite conferences like the Big Ten.

But the state also exploited its advantages, among them successful football teams (Colts, Notre Dame, IU) and an inability by Ohio to legalize sports betting.

Not to mention Indiana’s ever-increasing betting options.

Sportsbooks galore in Hoosier State

In 2020 alone, Indiana welcomed six online betting apps to its market, boosting its total of four at the start of the year to now 10 available operators.

The state’s early adopters included what are still its two most popular apps, DraftKings and FanDuel, along with BetRivers and BetAmerica.

They were joined in 2020 by what has become the state’s third-most-popular sportsbook, BetMGM.

Retail sportsbooks are thriving as well.

The casino in Lawrenceburg, situated near Cincinnati, plays a vital role in Indiana’s sports betting market.

It generated more than $11 million in retail handle in November, by far the state’s highest retail total, showing the effect neighboring states’ visitors can have on Indiana.

Other Hoosier sportsbooks that launched in 2020 include:

  • Caesars
  • theScore Bet
  • Unibet
  • William Hill

Expect additional apps to join the fray in 2021. Operators made clear their motivation to join what has proven to be an enticing market in Indiana.

SBK, 888sports, and, most visibly, Barstool Sports have all announced their intentions to enter the market next year.

Barstool is expected to launch an online sportsbook in 2021 and recently opened retail betting locations at Hollywood Lawrenceburg and Ameristar East Casino.

COVID-19 wreaks havoc on casino industry

Sportsbooks weren’t the only ones affected by the global COVID-19 outbreak.

State officials ordered Indiana casinos to close in March. Subsequent weeks led to millions in lost revenue and large-scale layoffs and furloughs for casino employees, often service workers.

Casino leaders and Indiana Gaming Commission officials responded by working through spring to establish safety protocols that would enable casinos to reopen without spreading the coronavirus.

Casinos reopened three months later, in mid-June.

Patrons flocked to gaming sites, adjusting to environments that included temperature checks and health screens.

Casinos, opening at 50% capacity, instituted policies ranging from mask requirements and social distancing to “Care Kits” and blackjack table plexiglass.

It has been far from a smooth process.

Casino workers fought for increased protections in the face of health risks. The state’s rapidly-increased rate of spread caused gaming officials to implement new procedures.

Revenues have been finicky, with early bounce-backs overshadowed by the continued impact of COVID-19.

It has all happened in an industry juggling prominent casino sales and continued controversy.

And while casinos remain open, everything is far from set in stone.

Count their future among the many stories to monitor in 2021.

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