Indiana, a state on the cusp of climbing into the US legal sports betting Heavyweight picture is out with its April numbers and unsurprisingly, they aren't good. Indiana's is the latest state to report a COVID-19 April slump and the most recent to see a 60%+ drop in its overall handle.
Indiana took in exactly zero retail bets in April which contributed to the numbers falling off a cliff. But according to stats released by PlayIndiana, mobile wagers also experienced eye-popping declines due to the fact that there were no sports to bet on. While it's true that Indiana's sport betting scene is in its relative infancy, the overall numbers from the Hoosier State proved to be the lowest on record.
March was horrible with regard to legal sports betting in Indiana but was nothing compared to the figures that have been released concerning April's cliff-dive. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, spring was touted by analysts to be huge for sportsbooks and the state.
March, with the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, was expected to approach record handles in basketball-crazed Indiana but that obviously didn't happen. April was projected to generate approximately $190 million in bets with NBA and NHL playoffs, MLB, NASCAR, golf and soccer filling the sports betting shelves. But none of that happened either. The NFL Draft and WNBA Draft during the month generated some betting interest but nothing close to what was expected by all analysts.
The writing was on the wall early for April's ability to generate any sort of gambling revenue. Sport was nowhere near a return and shelter-in-place orders for most states were showing no signs of easing.
Dustin Gouker, chief analyst for PlayIndiana.com said of Indiana's downturn: “Bettors have very few places to turn in Indiana. In some states, online casinos have driven significant revenue. But that isn’t possible in Indiana. So, the industry’s results will continue to be grim until the sports world figures out a way to reopen.”
Indiana's April’s handle came in down 64.8% from $74.8 million in March to the lowest handle since $35.2 million was taken in during the first month of legal betting for the state in October. Just $26.3 million in bets in was recorded for the entire month of April which is about $165 million less than the state had been expecting.
Gross revenues for the month fell from $5.5 million to $1.6 million in April which resulted in just $148,189 in tax revenue for the increasingly needy state. The shutdown effectively cost the state approximately $49 million in anticipated gaming tax revenue.
Indiana's pre-COVID sports betting platform was in the midst of some impressive growth, particularly on the mobile side. Some apps were starting to be developed while others were close to launch. Coronavirus put a halt to those plans. William Hill, Tropicana, Caesars, FoxBet and Unibet are providers with a strong mobile betting focus that hoped to be live by this time in Indiana but have been forced to delay their launch.
Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIndiana.com said of COVID-19's impact that: “The legacy of this shut down for the market could be in the way it has stunted its growth. From lost revenue to less competition, the effects of this unprecedented shutdown will be felt well after sports resume.”
Reason for optimism?
The US as a whole is starting to ease lockdown restrictions and sports are starting to follow. UFC 249 last weekend and last night were huge successes, NASCAR and German soccer are about to return and golf has signaled that it is ready to come back, albeit without fans. The NBA has been in negotiations to return, the NFL seems undeterred and MLB is in the midst of prepping for the start of an abbreviated season.
“It could be that April is the low point in what will undoubtedly still be a struggle until sports can resume with their regular schedules,” said Dustin Gouker. “If sports do resume relatively soon, online sportsbooks should recover quickly. In the meantime, sportsbooks will continue to look for creative ways to drive revenue.”
Professional sports look poised to return sooner than later and with that will come the opening of casinos and a gradual return to some form of normal. There are even whispers about Indiana’s casinos and retail sportsbooks opening as early as Sunday, June 14.
Weathering the coronavirus storm wasn’t a choice for sportsbook operators and the sports betting public. Now, that storm looks as though the worst is behind us. To describe the last couple months as “rough” is a colossal understatement but as life gets back to normal, so too will an Indiana sports betting industry that was in the midst of a meteoric rise prior to COVID-19.