Indiana sports books see February handle drop to $273.9m

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Analysts project big boost from March Madness.

Sports book operators in Indiana saw their streak of five consecutive months of record handle broken, but help is on the way from college basketball.

Bettors made $273.9m in wagers last month, down from $348.2m in January.

Adjusted gross operator revenue took a corresponding hit, dropping to $17m in February from $29.3m in January, the highest in the short history of sports betting in the Hoosier State.

The state collected $1.6 million in taxes.

The February 2021 handle was up 46.3% from the same month one year earlier, when books handled $187.2m.

The reason for much of the drop is football wagering, as $18.8m was bet in February 2021, down from $77.6m one month earlier.

Basketball was steady month-over-month: $127.2m in February, up on a per-day basis from $133.2m in January.

“Indiana remains a shining star among legal sports betting markets, even with a disappointing Super Bowl,” Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIndiana.com, said in a statement. “It is eye-popping to see a pullback, especially considering February marked the first full month of online sports betting in Michigan. But the market has continued to expand in spite of increased competition from Illinois, so this is likely a momentary blip explained most easily by the uniqueness of Indiana’s market.”

Dustin Gouker, another analyst for PlayIndiana.com, said the state should get a big boost this month as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which normally is played at neutral sites all over the country, will be hosted entirely in Indianapolis over three weekends.

“With two years of data now, I think it is fair to say the Super Bowl does not seem to drive as much interest in Indiana as in other event-dominated sports betting markets,” Gouker assessed. “But last year, before the pandemic shut down sports, we saw Indiana’s love of basketball begin to shine. And this March, that might be particularly so.”

Bettors in Illinois cannot place wagers on the state’s college teams, so with the University of Illinois and Loyola of Chicago headed to March Madness, Indiana could benefit from those crossing state lines to bet.

“Because this is the first time Indiana has offered legalized sports betting during March Madness, and because it is the sole host to the tournament, it is nearly impossible to project the exact impact of the games ahead of next week’s tip-off,” Gouker said. “Hosting the entire tournament will almost certainly create a surge in interest in wagering on the games. Ultimately, this will be a fascinating case study in the importance of local sporting events to bettors.”

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