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US – Record-low handle from Indiana sportsbooks

By - 12 May 2020

Indiana sportsbooks suffered their worst month ever in April — including a retail sector that did not produce a single bet — costing sportsbooks an estimated $165m in bets, according to estimates from PlayIndiana.

With a minimised schedule of sports to bet on and casinos closed for the entire month, Indiana generated just $26.3m in wagers, according to official reporting released Monday. During a month in which online and retail sportsbooks would have expected to draw at least $190m in bets, April’s handle was down 64.8 per cent from $74.8m in March. That’s the lowest monthly handle ever for Indiana sportsbooks, which launched in October 2019 with $35.2m in bets.

“April’s results are shocking, but not at all surprising,” said Dustin Gouker, chief analyst for PlayIndiana.com. “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.”

April’s wagers still produced $5.5m in adjusted gross revenue, essentially even with March. That yielded $522,085 in tax revenue for the state.

Without legal online casino games and poker, and no esports betting, bettors in Indiana have largely been limited since mid-March to fringe international sports and futures betting. In fact, $21m of the state’s handle was generated by “other” sports, far more than football, basketball, and baseball.

The NFL Draft, and to a lesser extent the WNBA Draft, gave bettors some reason to engage with sportsbooks in April. Indiana, the first state to allow betting on professional sports drafts, generated $1.3m in football-related wagers in April, most of which came from the NFL Draft.

“The shut down of sports has led to some creativity by Indiana’s bookmakers, and that creativity was rewarded with interest in the NFL Draft,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIndiana.com. “Even though Indiana has missed out on some opportunities, regulators have at least been nimble enough to allow some unconventional ideas.”

There are reasons for cautious optimism. NASCAR is planning on revving up in May, which could draw betting interest. The PGA Tour is planning a June tee off while baseball and the NBA continue to search for a workable solution to restart their seasons. In addition, Indiana’s casinos and retail sportsbooks could open as early as June 14.

“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,” Mr. Gouker said. “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.”

Because retail sportsbooks were shut down entirely in April—costing an estimated $40m in in-person bets—online sportsbooks accounted for the entire handle in the state. DraftKings/Ameristar East Chicago led the market with $13.6m in bets, up from $33.1m in March. That generated $908,322 in gross receipts, down from $2.4m. FanDuel/Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa was second with a $9.7m handle, down from $21.6m. That resulted in a $558,155 win, down from $1.5m.

The market leaders were followed by BetRivers/French Lick Resort with a $2.1m handle, down from $3.6m and Hollywood Casino with a $449,638 handle, up from $334,237 handle.

The shutdown may have slowed the development of some sportsbooks apps, too. BetIndiana is still sorting through issues. And familiar brands such as William Hill, which operates a retail sportsbook at Tropicana Evansville, as well as Caesars, Fox Bet, and Unibet have yet to enter the market.

“The legacy of this shut down for the market could be in the way it has stunted its growth,” Mr. Welman said. “From lost revenue to less competition, the effects of this unprecedented shutdown will be felt well after sports resume.”

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