With Sports Betting On The Way, Indiana Casino Revenue Ticks Up

Posted on July 15, 2019 - Last Updated on September 27, 2019

Casino revenue in the state of Indiana rebounded in May after a disappointing April.

The latest Indiana Gaming Commission monthly report stated that gaming win for May was $78.4 million.

May casino revenue

That figure is an increase of $300,000 from April. It’s still down from May of 2018, however, by just over 1%. Taxable revenue, which subtracts promotional plays, was down almost 3% from May 2018.

Gains/losses as compared to May 2018 by venue for the month include:

  • Ameristar Casino, East Chicago: $21.1 million, up 8.1%
  • Blue Chip Casino, Michigan City: $13.2 million, up 3.5%
  • Majestic Star Casino, Gary: $13.1 million, down 4%
  • Horseshoe Casino, Hammond: $31.3 million, down 7%

Racetracks in Indiana reported numbers that brighten the situation. Combined revenue from all casinos and Indiana horse racing tracks shows a rake of $191.9 million for the month. That’s up half a percent from last year.

Annual casino revenue numbers not as positive

The 13 gaming establishments in Indiana have brought in a total of $923.2 million through the first five months of 2019. That figure was 2.4% higher in 2018.

Casinos in the northwest part of the state are responsible for a lot of that downturn. Combined, their revenues have been $386.3 million. That’s down 4% from last year.

Those numbers could be discouraging in light of recent developments.

New competition for northwest Indiana casinos

Illinois has recently passed a huge gambling expansion bill. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed it into law on June 28.

The bill allows for the construction of a new “mega-casino” in the Chicago area. It also permits the state’s existing casinos to expand. The bill authorizes building five new casinos in other parts of the state, as well.

That could be a problem for casino revenue in northwest Indiana because one expert estimates 70 percent of patrons are actually Illinois residents. It’s debatable whether those people will continue to make the trip when more local options are available.

Indiana’s head start

A new facility is still planned for Gary. That provides a way for Indiana to combat Illinois’ lure of new and shiny places to go. In addition, Indiana casinos may be able to offer sports betting before Illinois.

Though the Illinois gambling expansion bill does legalize sports betting, Indiana has a head start on that. The Illinois bill also does not allow fans to wager on college sports.

The sports betting law in Indiana has no such restrictions. Illinois residents who wish to bet on Northwestern or University of Illinois games would still have to cross the state line to do so.

The hope is that a new facility in Gary and offering sports betting will bring people in the doors.

Sports betting projections

Lawmakers in Indiana don’t expect a huge take from legalized sports betting. The state’s Legislative Services Agency projects a sports betting tax revenue of $20.3 million a year. The same agency projected that mobile betting will only net the state $3.4 million a year.

Clever casino executives know that sports betting isn’t a highly profitable business in and of itself. That’s especially true given the volume of bets that will be placed on mobile devices and how many bettors will continue to use unregulated books.

Sports betting for casinos should be considered as another “hook” to lure foot traffic into their facilities. The hope is that while patrons are there to place bets, they may also spend money on other amenities or games that have a higher level of profitability.

Casino revenue in May rebounded from April, but there is still work to be done to show an increase for 2019 year-over-year. Indiana gambling operators need to take advantage of the window they have before Illinois expansion takes place to address that issue.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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