Indiana sportsbooks slow to recover, tax revenue short

The Indiana Gaming Commission says the April 2021 handle for Indiana sports books dipped to $236 million, down 25% from March. (photo courtesy: IIB)

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — While Indiana’s 13 licensed casinos appear set to reopen next week, their affiliated online sportsbooks still struggled through the month of May as the pandemic kept most major sporting events on hold.

“May marked the second full month of reporting while casinos and sportsbooks in Indiana were closed,” said Max Bischel, vice president of U.S. business for Gambling.com Group. “While it’s no surprise that revenue for casinos remained at $0, it doesn’t make the eeriness of the reporting any less profound.”

Under normal circumstances, Indiana would have seen the sports betting handle in May come in around $150 million. In February, the state’s sports handle was $187 million. Instead, it took in $37 million in sports wagers last month, all of which occurred in mobile sports betting. The state recorded $302,000 in tax revenue.

“Another saving grace for Indiana throughout all this has been the fact that mobile betting is authorized, which is helping offset the closure of brick and mortar sportsbooks,” said Bischel. “Indiana residents can bet on their phone, which may prove to be a long term trend as casino and (in person) sportsbook capacity will be limited moving forward and some people may prefer to stay at home.”

Gaming analysts with PlayIndiana.com say when the market does normalize, Indiana will likely be facing some additional headwinds.

When sports betting began to operate last fall in Indiana, none of the neighboring states had yet to legalize online or retail sports betting.

“Indiana’s main advantage when it launched was that it had such limited competition in the Midwest,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayIndiana.com. “That is obviously changing.’

Since then, Michigan has launched its sportsbook industry and Illinois legalized sports betting and has eliminated its initial in-person registration requirement for online sportsbooks.

In Ohio, a bill to legalize betting is moving through the statehouse.

When Indiana casinos do reopen, there will be rules in place, including social distancing and 50% occupancy.