NIT Joins Other Successful Sports Events In Indiana To Excite Bettors

Posted on April 5, 2024 - Last Updated on April 16, 2024

With a sold-out finale, the National Invitation Tournament was a success for the Indianapolis-based NCAA and the state.

The tournament and its women’s counterpart, the Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament, drew fans from all over the country.

The sold-out championship game is a good sign for sportsbooks. It should help the state continue a record-breaking betting handle pace this year. In January, bettors wagered $480.5 million across retail and online betting options, marking a successful start for Indiana sports betting in 2024.

NIT attendance numbers got a boost from Sycamores’ success

The icing on the cake was the Indiana State men competing for the NIT title at Butler University’s historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Despite a 2-point loss to Seton Hall in the finals, the Sycamores, the highest-ranked team not to get a berth to the Big Dance, sent a strong message to the NCAA selection committee.

The women’s side also had a regional draw, with Illinois winning the title with the help of a double-double from Kokomo’s Kendall Bostic. The graduate of Northwestern High School earned a spot on the WBIT All-Tournament Team.

While the NIT and WBIT do not enjoy the fanfare and intense media coverage of the NCAA’s major postseason tournament, they still give fans an exciting slate of games during March Madness. With nearly three dozen online and retail sportsbooks available, bettors in Indiana have a wealth of options to choose from when looking to place a wager on their favorite teams.

Let’s take a look at some other events that bring in tax revenue for the state via sports betting. Basketball is the most popular sport among bettors, with football coming in second.

The biggest sporting events in Indiana in the last five years

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and NCAA Men’s Final Four

Nothing comes close to the money wagered during March Madness. The 2021 NCAA Men’s Final Four occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. That year’s Final Four and title game were at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Six venues in the state also hosted first- and second-round games. With seating capacity severely reduced due to the pandemic, the lack of fans in seats wasn’t a deterrent to bettors. They could still place wagers with online sportsbooks. That year, the American Gaming Association reported that “three times as many Americans” planned to wager on the 2021 event “via online sportsbooks compared to 2019.”

Indianapolis 500

No event in the state matches the Indy 500 for foot traffic and fan seating. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has over 250,000 seats. The event is part of the prestigious Triple Crown of Motorsports. The other two legs are the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix.

Because it is an annual event, it will always be among the top wagering events of the year in the state, with fans able to put money on the winner, the top 3 finishers, head-to-head matchups, futures and proposition bets.

In 2022, Caesars partnered with the speedway to become its official sportsbook partner for that year’s race.

Big Ten basketball tournaments

As noted above, basketball leads the way among Hoosier State fans in terms of sports betting. The Big Ten basketball tournaments have always been a big draw for spectators. Especially for those who can drive from surrounding states to see their favorite teams play.

Indianapolis hosted eight of them from 2019 to 2022: four on the men’s side and four on the women’s side.

Big Ten Football Championship

With top-tier media coverage and a home at the massive Lucas Oil Stadium, which has a capacity of over 60,000, the annual Big Ten Football Championship is another major event that attracts bettors.

The last championship occurred in December 2023 and had 67,842 fans in the stands.

2024 NBA All-Star events

The 2024 NBA All-Star festivities in February were star-studded affairs spread over venues around Indianapolis. This included Lucas Oil Stadium and Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

In addition to placing all types of bets on the main event, several other events had fans studying their sportsbook apps. They included the Slam Dunk Contest, the Skills Challenge and the Three-Point Challenge, which featured superstar Steph Curry and WNBA sharpshooter Sabrina Ionescu and garnered widespread media coverage.

What’s next?

While no major pro or NCAA Division I team from Indiana has won a championship since 2012 (Indiana Fever), fans can look forward to several big-time events that will bring a surge in betting action in the next five years. The list includes three Final Fours: two men’s and one women’s.

This year alone boasts several major events, with WISH TV saying, “The city of Indianapolis this year will host maybe the biggest collection of sporting events in the Circle City’s history.”

  • May 26: Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
  • Dec. 7:  Big Ten Football Championship, Lucas Oil Stadium
  • Dec. 14: The Indy Classic – an NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball doubleheader showcase, Gainbridge Fieldhouse
  • March 28-30, 2025:  Division I Men’s Basketball Championship – Midwest Regional, Lucas Oil Stadium
  • April 4-6, 2026: NCAA Men’s Final Four, Lucas Oil Stadium
  • March 31-April 2, 2028: NCAA Women’s Final Four, venue TBA
  • March 31-April 2, 2029: NCAA Men’s Final Four, venue TBA
Photo by AP Photo / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
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Cheryl Coward

Cheryl Coward is a contributor for PlayIndiana with a background in sports journalism. She started her career as a news reporter in Washington, DC. She’s a die-hard women’s basketball fanatic and founded the website as a result of that passion.

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