Indiana Keeps Betting On Out-Of-State Visitors To Boost Sports Betting Handle

Posted on February 25, 2020

Bettors from other Midwest states continue to flock to Indiana to place their sports wagers.

It’s a quick trip for those living near the state line.

Since there’s no in-person registration requirement, you can place a bet on your phone quickly after crossing into Indiana.

That’s been a big win for Indiana sportsbooks, who’ve been reaping the benefits of the rest of the Midwest not having sports betting options of their own.

As long as that remains the case, Indiana will continue to see a boost to its handle from out-of-state bettors.

That advantage won’t last forever, but for now, Indiana is happy to take reap the benefits.

Kentucky’s progress slows, bettors head to Indiana

It looked like sports betting in Kentucky was on the horizon after a bill to legalize it throughout the Bluegrass State quickly passed through committee.

However, it might not be the case anymore.

The bill has seen a number of hang-ups recently, even with the support of Gov. Andy Beshear. So, it may be a while before Indiana’s southern neighbor is able to get the ball rolling.

For Kentucky residents like Logan Walker, it means driving over the border into Indiana until things get sorted out.

Walker is a teacher from Owensboro, KY. With Owensboro right across the river from Indiana, legal sports betting is just a few minutes away.

“It only takes me 10 minutes to cross the bridge since I live so close,” Walker said. “I can make the whole trip in a half-hour or less.”

Walker says that he crosses into Indiana about once a week to place his bets. Once he’s over the border, it only takes a quick stop to get things going.

“There’s plenty of big parking lots on the Indiana side, so I just pull over into one of them and use my phone to bet on whatever I want.”

According to Walker, he often sees other Owensboro residents doing the same thing. Until Kentucky can sort out their situation, that’ll continue to happen at areas near the state line, Owensboro included.

Indiana will certainly be hoping that legalization will continue to be held up in Kentucky. The more that people like Walker cross the border to bet, the more money the Hoosier State makes.

Ohio residents from small towns betting in Indiana

Ohio, much like Kentucky, is behind when it comes to legalizing sports betting.

A pair of competing bills slowed down progress throughout the state. Although the movement has been slow, Ohio might see things pick up in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, gamblers are coming to Indiana to bet.

Since bettors want to make those trips in as little time as possible, they stop right over the state line wherever they can.

In border towns like Woodburn, IN, it’s as easy as pulling over at rest stops or gas stations, which are right off of the highway.

The Love’s Travel Shop in Woodburn is one of those gas stations.

Like a lot of stops along highways, it has a McDonald’s attached to the building. Brad Eckert is a cashier at that McDonald’s and sees Ohio residents come in frequently to place bets.

“A lot of times, it’s a car full of guys that come in together and figure out what they’re going to bet on,” Eckert said. “They might grab a coffee or something, but they’re here to bet.”

Eckert suspects those bettors are coming from the neighboring town of Antwerp, OH, which is right on the other side of the border. Crossing the state line for betting is more common in highly populated spots like the areas around Cincinnati, Chicago, or Louisville.

However, Woodburn’s situation shows that even small towns are seeing similar results. It’s likely just one of many places that bettors from Ohio are stopping at to wager.

“It happens here at least a couple (of) times a week,” Eckert said. “We’re only a few minutes away from Ohio, so I guess it makes sense that they’d come here.”

Until Ohio can implement sports betting, its residents are just one more source of income for Indiana’s sportsbooks.

Some Illinois gamblers are more casual

A lot of residents from bordering states are willing to make the drive to the Hoosier State to place bets.

However, sometimes betting goes hand in hand with other activities. At least that’s the case for 26-year-old Chicago native Conner Davis, who places his bets when he finds himself on the Indiana side of the border.

Often for Davis, he’s betting from 3 Floyds Brewpub, which is a popular brewery in Munster, IN, which he frequents. It is right next to the Illinois border.

Sports betting has been legalized in Illinois, but the state hasn’t been able to come to market yet. Davis doesn’t come to Indiana specifically for betting, but he does place some wagers to add to the fun.

“I come here with my friends a lot, so I figure why not knock out two birds with one stone?” Davis said. “I don’t bet all the time, but if I’m going to be here for a few hours anyway, I might as well.”

It’s not likely that Indiana is making most of its out-of-state money from the more casual-type bettors like Davis.

There’s already plenty of bettors from Chicago who take quick trips to Indiana just for sports betting.

However, Davis’ situation does highlight the fact that not everyone from other states who are betting in Indiana comes specifically for that reason. It’s just one more type of situation that Indiana’s sportsbooks are profiting off of right now.

Michigan bettors visiting Indiana casinos

Not all out-of-state bettors are placing their sports wagers remotely.

Some have preferred visiting Indiana’s casinos to bet in person. That can be an easy trip to make with some casinos located right by the border of other states.

According to Brenda Temple, the vice president of Michigan City’s Blue Chip Casino, it’s become a common occurrence.

Temple spoke with WSBT 22 ahead of this year’s Super Bowl about how visitors from Michigan have been helping to boost the casino’s handle.

“We’re seeing a different clientele, a lot of customers from Michigan,” Temple said. “They don’t have legalized sports betting there. It’s been approved, but there’s not anyone local that does it, so they’re coming down here to Indiana.”

In January alone, those Michigan visitors helped contribute to Blue Chip’s $52 million in handle.

That was the second-highest mark in the state behind East Chicago’s Ameristar Casino and its $73 million handle. Ameristar undoubtedly receives the same type of boost from its Illinois visitors.

However, those numbers aren’t just from in-person bettors. Blue Chip’s partnership with FanDuel provides most of the casino’s handle. The same goes for Ameristar and its partner, DraftKings.

Despite that, both casinos will still benefit from out-of-state visitors until Michigan and Illinois bring sports betting to market.

Variety of situations have bettors visiting Indiana

There’s no doubt that residents from other states are visiting Indiana for sports betting, but there’s a lot of reasons they’re doing so.

In the case of Logan Walker and some of Woodburn’s visitors, crossing the border and stopping at the first available spot to place online bets is the preferred option.

Others, like Davis, may not take trips just for betting.

For people in a similar situation to Davis, betting when you happen to be in Indiana might make more sense.

Although some prefer to visit casinos such as Blue Chip in person, the reasons may vary.

While some people like to hit the casino for a day of fun and bet while they’re there, others might not have a choice.

Some bettors near more remote parts of Indiana’s borders might be forced to visit a casino in person to place their bets.

It could be due to poor internet service in those areas. However, there’s no way to know exactly how many bettors may be facing that kind of situation.

Despite all of the different reasons someone may visit Indiana to bet, Indiana’s sportsbooks are happy to have the extra business.

It won’t last forever, but the Hoosier State will enjoy the advantage while it’s there.

Jake Garza Avatar
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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a US Gambling Industry Analyst for Catena Media. He specializes in Midwest sports betting and casino content. Prior to covering the legal gambling industry, he spent time as a professional sports writer, reporting on teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers. Garza is currently working as a Managing Editor for PlayIndiana and PlayOhio, with previous stops at other well-known brands such as PlayIllinois and PlayMichigan. He has been covering the gambling industry since 2019, and currently works with a team of other journalists to provide comprehensive coverage of the legal U.S. gambling industry.

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