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Gambling app boom fuels in-stadium fan bets

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Jason Hammer still remembers the Monday Night Miracle.

Hammer was at a casino in Las Vegas with his wife, watching the Indianapolis Colts trail the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth quarter.

“I’ve got quite a bit of cash on this game, almost to the point where my wife was going to have some serious conversations with me,” he said. “The Colts rallied, the Colts won, the biggest comeback in the history of Monday Night Football. She got a diamond ring, I got more money to play with. Great moment in gambling history.”

Now a popular radio personality on WIBC and the host of WISH-TV’s “All INdiana Bets,” Hammer said the proliferation of sports betting apps means anyone can experience that rush right here in Indiana. Gamblers can place all kinds of bets, such as how much yardage a player will get or who will score the first touchdown. He said this adds to the fan experience and can lead to a winning night even if your team loses the game.

“The in-stadium experience is like being in one of those big Las Vegas halls, right? Because you’re going to have crowd reaction,” he said. “Somebody’s probably got action on every play. And listening to the crowd’s reaction to a random handoff in the fourth quarter when your team is down by 35 lets you know who’s got action in the game, and it’s kind of fun.”

The data analytics firm GeoComply, which provides gaming app geolocation data to regulators, told News 8 it logged more than 18,400 geolocation checks from 5,200 registered users at Lucas Oil Stadium during the Colts’ last Monday night home game on Nov. 28. Russell Rhoads, a finance professor at the IU Kelley School of Business, said not all of those checks automatically mean someone is placing a bet but it’s a good measure of fan interest. Moreover, he said the in-stadium betting experience often turns into a social one, with fans trading advice and comparing notes on bets.

“It’s not one person staring at their phone like a teenager. It’s usually one person showing the odds and having a discussion around it with the people around them,” he said. “So it’s really integrated into the whole experience when you’re attending the game.”

Indiana legalized sports gambling in 2019. Data from the Indiana Gaming Commission show last year, casinos reported more than $288 million in after-tax gross receipts from online bets, accounting for 88 percent of all sports betting receipts. For comparison, traditional in-casino sports wagering returned roughly $40 million. Those two figures contributed to $31 million in gaming revenue.

Rhoads said the legalization and regulation of sports betting has made it more difficult to cheat. Just as the financial world has ways to uncover insider trading, he said legal and regulated betting apps make it easy to spot unusual activity because there is a record of every single transaction. Rhoads said the possibility of an athlete agreeing to fix a game, such as happened during the 1919 World Series, is low today. He said modern athletes’ multimillion-dollar contracts mean they have far more to lose than to gain.

Hammer said the best advice he has for gamblers is to never bet more than you’re willing to lose. He said it’s also a good idea to stay away from parlay bets, which require a whole set of games to break your way to avoid losing money.