It has been nothing but bleak news for the US legal sports betting industry the last few months but the wagering numbers out of Indiana seem to be signaling a turnaround for the decimated industry. Although a $37,334,940 handle in Indiana in May fell short of expectations, that figure represents a serious uptick in the amount wagered in April and brings about an optimism that a “return to normal” is just around the corner.
“In the short-term, the path to recovery is relatively straightforward,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayIndiana.com. “Sports must return. The good news is that the PGA Tour expected to start this weekend, and the NBA and other major sports are closer to a return. The bottom line is that there is now a light at the end of this tunnel.”
Taking a Look at the May Numbers
PlayIndiana estimated that May should have brought in between $160 million and $200 million in bets. That number was never going to be realized with the lack of global sports and casinos with open doors. However, the $37.3 million handle was a good sign for both the cash-strapped state and the gambling operators that call Indiana home.
It was Indiana’s strong mobile betting platform, unsurprisingly, that was solely responsible for the increase in bets from April to May. All of the $37.3 million in wagers in May, which is a 41.9% increase from April’s record low of $26.3 million, came from mobile apps.
“Online sportsbooks have proven to be resilient,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIndiana.com. “Operators have been remarkably creative in keeping bettors engaged, even with fringe sports as the main attraction. There is no making up for what has been lost, but weathering the storm has always been the priority. And I think most, if not all, have been successful so far in doing that.”
Adjusted gross revenue for Indiana sportsbooks in May came in at $3.2 million, which is double the $1.6 million in April. Out of that, $302,097 was contributed to the state in the form of tax revenue.
It’s Not All Great News for Indiana
The Hoosier State was well on its way to being considered one of the most successful bet-friendly states in the US before COVID-19. Consistently in the top 4 states in terms of handle for the few months prior to the global shutdowns, Indiana suddenly has some competition from neighboring states that hadn’t launched prior to the March stoppages.
When the sporting world gets back to normal, Indiana likely won’t have the luxury of as many out-of-state bettors. Michigan and Illinois are close to full-scale launches of their own legal sports betting platforms, and Ohio is taking similar steps to legalize this year.
“Indiana’s main advantage when it launched was that it had such limited competition in the Midwest,” Dustin Gouker said. “That is obviously changing, which was inevitable. But Indiana still has one of the most solid regulatory infrastructures in the U.S. And that will help keep the state ahead of the curve.”
The Indiana sports betting scene is expected to ramp up quickly. July and August, which are typically slow months for sportsbooks, should be cranking with the NBA and NHL resuming their seasons and playing throughout the summer, MLB hopefully coming back online soon and other staples like UFC, PGA and NASCAR employing a full-steam-ahead approach.
13 casinos in Indiana are scheduled to reopen next week under coronavirus safety plans they submitted to the Indiana Gaming Commission and the state’s only tribal casino is scheduled to open its doors June 15.
When We Return to Normal
Pre-COVID betting numbers for Indiana are not expected in The Hoosier State until everything in the world of sports is back to normal but there have been some tangible indicators of how the industry is expected to bounce back. Betting on horse racing, the NFL Draft, the UFC events that have taken place the last month and golf’s charity events has exceeded expectations so far.
The pent-up demand for sports and sports betting cannot be underestimated. People are craving live sports and the ability to wager on their favorite teams. With that said, the stars are aligning for what could be a great summer for Indiana sportsbooks. The operators are ready to go, the gambling public is as well. The only thing missing is a full menu of sports which is getting closer every day.