Baseball is back, and it comes at a good time for Indiana’s nascent sports wagering market.
Launched in September 2019, Indiana’s sportsbooks have needed a shot in the arm amid the COVID-19 public health crisis. On Tuesday, it was revealed that Major League Baseball will return to action next month. It came after much uncertainty about whether there would even be a season.
While Indiana isn’t home to an MLB franchise, fans of teams in nearby states will of course be making the drive. In particular, fans of the Cincinnati Reds will be heading across state lines to place wagers. Downtown Cincinnati is less than a 30-minute drive from the Indiana border.
The 2020 season will not have fans, so many people will be looking for new ways to have skin in the game.
The Hoosier State will also get some fans of the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians coming across the border. The state of Illinois is now in the online/mobile sports betting arena, so betting dollars from fans of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs may be limited.
Still, bettors will look for the best lines, and that may have Chicagoans leaving Illinois to cross into northwest Indiana, which is also home to a top retail book at the Horseshoe Hammond casino. Chicago isn’t home to any casinos.
— MLB (@MLB) June 24, 2020
The season will be very abbreviated, with the league set to feature just 60 games and then the playoffs.
At FanDuel Sportsbook in Indiana, the Reds are +2800 to win the World Series, compared to +2600 and +50000 for the Indians and Tigers, respectively.
With the Tigers having virtually no shot, there probably won’t be much futures action on the team over in Indiana. However, a 60-game regular season sure makes the chances of a miracle happening for the Tigers more likely than if the season was 162 games.
The state of Michigan legalized sportbooks in 2019, but it likely won’t have online/mobile books this year.
An official MLB schedule has yet to be put out, but it will feature more rivalry games.
“MLB has submitted a 60-game regular season schedule for review by the Players Association,” the league said in a statement. “The proposed schedule will largely feature divisional play, with the remaining portion of each club’s games against their opposite league’s corresponding geographical division (i.e., East vs. East, Central vs. Central, and West vs. West), in order to mitigate travel.”
The playoff format will remain intact. Ten teams in total — each of the three division winners and two wild cards — will make the postseason in the fall.
Under this short of a season, every game will have greater significance for the futures markets, which will fluctuate much more rapidly. Some teams will be eliminated from contention much sooner.
"Every single game is going to matter." — Barnhart on the legitimacy of a 60-game season. #reds
— Mark Sheldon (@m_sheldon) June 24, 2020
Some of the rule changes will be of great interest to bettors, especially those wagering on single games or during games. It should make for some interesting betting theories and strategies.
Arguably the most significant change is with regard to extra innings, where MLB will have a runner start on second base in order to shorten games. The rule impacts both teams equally, but it will generate some intriguing betting scenarios for consumers.
All extra-inning games will start with a runner on second base beginning in the 10th.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 24, 2020
Other tweaks that will impact the game include a designated hitter for both leagues.
Proposed MLB rule changes for 2020:
* Implementation of DH in both leagues
* Extra innings start with runner on second base
* No limits on position players pitching
* Pitchers can have wet rag in pocket as substitute for licking fingers
* Three-batter minimum still stands
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) June 23, 2020