Indiana’s Midwest Sports Betting Monopoly Took A Hit In 2020

Posted on January 1, 2021 - Last Updated on December 30, 2020

Indiana came into 2020 as the undisputed king of Midwest sports betting.

As surrounding states like Kentucky and Michigan lagged behind, the Hoosier State acted as an oasis for gamblers in the area.

The workaround was simple for those living near the Indiana border in other states. All it took to place a bet from your phone was a quick drive over the state line.

But as the year went on, nearby states joining the sports betting fun started to chip away at Indiana’s Midwest monopoly.

The state’s market is still performing well, despite having more competition than ever.

December’s $251 million in wagers was the third-straight record month for the state.

As time goes on, the number of competitors will only go up. The output from Indiana’s market in 2021 will have a lot to do with the status of sports betting in the rest of the Midwest.

Illinois sports betting passes Indiana

Sports betting is off to a rocket launch of a start in the Land of Lincoln.

The state’s market is noticeably bigger than Indiana’s, despite only being up and running for a handful of months.

The state hauled in a monster $434 million handle in October alone. That number already dwarfs Indiana’s biggest months.

Sports betting started in Illinois back in March, but things weren’t exactly running at full speed to start.

Only retail casinos could take bets at first. That changed when BetRivers opened for online business in June.

However, Illinois required gamblers at the time to register for online sportsbooks in-person at a casino.

That dreaded requirement was a pain for Illinois bettors, but it was great for Indiana’s sports betting market. For a lot of people, it was easier to take a quick drive over the border to gamble than it was to drive hours to a casino to register in person.

Things started to change in August due to the pandemic. Gov. Pritzker began suspending the in-person registration requirement to make it easier for gamblers in the state.

Illinois bettors can now sign up for a sportsbook from their phone or computer. In other words, there’s no reason to drive to Indiana anymore to place bets.

That change was inevitable, and the Illinois competition will continue to impact Indiana’s market into 2021.

Online sports betting in Michigan arrives

Much like Illinois, Michigan sports betting got its start back in March 2020.

However, unlike Illinois, Indiana’s northern neighbor still doesn’t have online sports betting yet. Sports betting isn’t convenient in Michigan unless you happen to live nearby a casino.

That’s kept some gamblers from Michigan coming to Indiana for their sports betting needs.

Indiana has been happy to have the extra business, but that boost won’t last forever.

Michigan will finally have online sports betting in early 2021, and it won’t be plagued by the same in-person registration rule that Illinois has on the books.

That online launch will immediately kill the extra Michigan money that’s been coming to Indiana for over a year.

Again, it was just a matter of time until this was going to happen, but Michigan’s online launch will still be an interesting wrinkle for Indiana’s 2021 outlook.

Kentucky lags behind

Thankfully for Indiana, the rest of its neighbors are way behind in the sports betting department.

Kentucky still needs to legalize betting before it can even work on opening for business.

Rep. Adam Koenig has been working hard to bring sports betting to the state, but his efforts have fallen flat so far. Kentucky failed to pass his sports betting bill in 2020, so Koenig is gearing up for another run at things in 2021.

However, some changes for historical horse racing in the state could put sports betting on the back burner next year. Kentucky residents might end up having to wait until 2022 for legalization.

Ohio’s bill dies

Progress has been just as slow over in Ohio.

There was some optimism that Ohio could bring sports betting into the fold during the final days of the year. Unfortunately for gamblers in the state, those efforts fell apart at the one-yard line.

The sponsors of Ohio’s sports betting bill will be leaving office when their terms end in January. In other words, the state will be starting from scratch in 2021.

Gamblers in the state will be hoping that the new batch of state representatives are just as eager to push for sports betting legislation.

In the meantime, Indiana will continue to enjoy the extra business that visiting gamblers from Ohio and Kentucky provide.

Indiana casinos in particular has been receiving big boosts from Ohio visitors.

Hollywood Lawrenceburg is Indiana’s most popular retail sportsbook every month.

A large part of its success has been the casino’s proximity to Cincinnati. It’s success will likely continue now that Barstool Sportsbook is up and running at the property.

So even though Illinois and Michigan have been chipping away at Indiana’s Midwest sports betting monopoly, Ohio and Kentucky will keep things going for months to come.

It’s a situation that won’t last forever, but while it’s there, the extra money will help Indiana’s market grow in an increasingly competitive Midwest.

Photo by Associated Press
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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a sports writer based in Indianapolis, IN. He's an Indiana University graduate who's spent time as a sports reporter covering teams at the prep, collegiate and professional levels.

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