Indiana Casinos To Stay Open, But Some May Have To Slash Capacities

Is another statewide casino shutdown on the horizon in Indiana? No, but some changes are in the pipeline.

Following an executive order from Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Indiana Gaming Commission has required that casinos be more aggressive with mitigating the risks of COVID-19. As of Monday, retail casinos in the state must have a designated area for eating, drinking, and smoking away from gaming. The idea is to keep those people talking their masks off separated from mask-wearing guests.

According to the IGC, any casino located in a county that reaches the red level of COVID-19 emergency will have to reduce their occupancy capacity to 15% of pre-pandemic levels. The state’s nine casinos are currently operating at 50%, following a total shutdown this past spring.

For now, the casinos will stay open, unlike casinos in nearby Detroit, which were ordered closed this week. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker did likewise Tuesday, closing the state’s 10 casinos effective Friday.

Indiana casinos are still trying to rebound from the pandemic closures earlier this year, but it’s been more or less impossible given the reduced occupancy. In October, the casinos and their respective sports gambling apps won $175,254,968 from gamblers, the best month for the state since total gaming revenue was $203,572,543 in February, the month before the pandemic struck.

Sports betting accounted for $21,098,460 in revenue last month, the most collected by operators since launching in September 2019, and 47.7% higher than the $14,283,702 reported in September.

The statewide casino-style gambling market was $179,044,486 in October 2019 ($11,538,533 of which was from sports betting), so despite sports betting being larger than it has ever been in the Hoosier State, overall gambling win still fell 2.2% in a year-over-year comparison.

Sports betting has proved a crucial way for casinos to stop the bleeding. Through the first 10 months of 2020, Indiana casinos and their gambling apps won $1,294,781,089 from gamblers, approximately 30% less than during the same period in 2019, according to figures from the state’s gaming regulatory body.

COVID-19 continues to put online casino bill on horizon

In August, well before the second major nationwide surge of COVID-19, Indiana policymaker John Ford, a Republican, said that his colleagues in the Senate will be looking at expanding online gambling next year.

“On the table for us in the next session will be iGaming,” Ford said as part of a panel invited by the National Council of Legislative Gaming States. “I think we’ll take a hard look. The goal again will be to keep barriers to entry low, and with low taxes to bring [customers from]  the gray market in as much as possible…Neighboring states (Michigan) have passed iGaming, so it’s time we take a look at that. And sports betting shows these are folks not being touched by brick-and-mortar states.”
As of Wednesday, online casino legislation had yet to be pre-filed ahead of the 2021 Indiana legislative session, which kicks off Jan. 11 and runs through nearly the end of April.