INDIANA – Social distancing restrictions because of the coronavirus and the stay at home order from Gov. Eric Holcomb have force casinos to close and sportsbooks to stop taking bets.
Online sports betting has all but stalled out as well in Indiana with so many sports postponing and canceling games. In the month of March, the state lost out on around $125 million in gambling tax dollars.
Jessica Welman with PlayIndiana.com says that number should be much higher given the fact that in Indiana basketball is a big deal and March is the time when college basketball is front and center because of the NCAA Tournament. The tournament ended up being canceled.
“300 million in handle was certainly a possibility,” Welman said to Inside Indiana Business. “To end up with just one-fourth of that because of all these closures was expected but certainly disheartening.”
Sports gambling was made legal in Indiana in September 2019.
“You have to keep in mind this is a heavily taxes industry,” said Welman. “9.5 percent of every sports betting dollar goes to the state. I haven’t had a chance to dive into the regular casino numbers. That’s taxed at an even higher rate, but you’re talking massive losses for the state.”
The state only ended up collecting around $74 million in sports betting wagers. That’s a drop of 60-percent compared to the month of February when Indiana set a sports-betting record with the state raking in over $187 million.
The gaming stoppage also trickles down to the local level as well.
“Since Tropicana and the other casinos have been closed, that’s a big hit to our budget,” said Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke at Tuesday’s coronavirus press conference with the governor.
Winnecke said the city of Evansville usually makes about $1 million a month in revenue from the Tropicana Casino along the Ohio River. That has forced city leaders to approve a $2.8 million dollar reduction in the city’s budget.
The stoppages have also forced casinos to furlough workers. This week casinos in East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, and Evansville announced that they will no longer be paying workers while the governor’s stay at home order is in place, forcing many more Hoosiers to file for unemployment benefits.
The good news is casinos and sportsbooks are in for one heck of a boost once everything starts up again.
“Online sportsbooks will bounce back more quickly than their retail counterparts, which face a much more uncertain future as the coronavirus pandemic continues,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayIndiana.com.
Gov. Holcomb’s stay at home order is set to expire April 20th. Holcomb said they would reassess the situation of the virus in Indiana around that time.
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