Without one single retail bet in April, Indiana sportsbooks endured their worst month ever at an estimated cost to sportsbooks of $165m in bets, according to PlayIndiana. A minimized schedule of sports to bet on and casino closures for the entire month generated just $26.3m in wagers.
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% 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.
Dustin Gouker, chief analyst for PlayIndiana.com, described April’s results as shocking, but not at all surprising. “Bettors have very few places to turn in Indiana,” he said. “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 $1.6m, in adjusted gross revenue, down from $5.5m. That yielded $148,189 in tax revenue for the state. But 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,” Gouker added. “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 Casino 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 was second with a $9.7m handle, down from $21.6m. That resulted in a $558,155 win, down from $1.5m.
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,” Welman said. “From lost revenue to less competition, the effects of this unprecedented shutdown will be felt well after sports resume.”