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US – Coronavirus closures cost Indiana’s sportsbooks $125m in March

By - 14 April 2020

Indiana’s retail and online sportsbooks were hit hard in the first weeks of the coronavirus shutdown, costing the state an estimated $125m in wagers in March, according to PlayIndiana. And with no immediate end in sight, the industry will continue to navigate treacherous waters in the months ahead.

“This is an unprecedented stoppage for legal sportsbooks, and there is no playbook for them to follow to help manage the crisis,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayIndiana.com. “Obviously, the sports betting industry is just one facet in a crisis that is affecting us all, too often tragically. But it is a business that employs hundreds in Indiana and generates millions in state taxes. And the bottom line is that there will be no significant relief until the sports world begins to open back up.”

Indiana appeared to be headed for its first month of more than $200m in bets. Instead, the state’s retail and online sportsbooks collected just $74.8 million in March wagers, down 60% from the record $187.2m in February, according to official reporting released Thursday. Almost all of the handle was generated before March 11, when the sports world began to shut down.

March’s bets produced $5.5m in adjusted gross revenue, down 50.5% from $11.9m in February, and yielded $522,0825 in tax revenue for the state.

The loss of the NCAA Tournament proved particularly damaging. Indiana sportsbooks could have generated more than $50m in tournament-related wagers, PlayIndiana estimates.

“There is no way to replace the revenue that would have been generated from the NCAA Tournament, which in legal jurisdictions generates more action than the Super Bowl,” said Jessica Welman, an analyst for PlayIndiana.com. “The NCAA Tournament can’t be rescheduled, but professional leagues are beginning to draw plans to begin games again. We still don’t know what that looks like or when it will happen. Whether spectators are there to watch in-person or not, though, online sportsbooks should again be able to attract bettors, which will be welcome news for the industry.”

The silence of sportsbooks could change in a minor way. Sportsbooks are now accepting bets on the WNBA and NFL drafts.

“We don’t expect a lot of betting on the WNBA and NFL drafts, but we suspect that each will draw more interest than either would under ordinary circumstances,” Welman said. “People are looking for some sense of normalcy while they practice social distancing, and the drafts and futures betting is providing at least some outlet for bettors.”

In March, online sportsbooks generated 81.3 per cent, or $60.8m, of the state’s handle. DraftKings/Ameristar Casino led the market with $33.1m in bets, down from $74.1m in February, and generated $2.4m in gross receipts. Horseshoe Hammond led the retail market with $3.4m in bets, down from $12.4m in February. That generated $211,475 in gross receipts.

“Online sportsbooks will bounce back more quickly than their retail counterparts, which face a much more uncertain future as the coronavirus pandemic continues,” Gouker said. “In states where online casino games and poker are legal, such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, casino operators have had a bit softer landing. But Indiana has really borne the brunt of this crisis, unfortunately.”

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