The Book sports book at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond has reopened for fan seating concurrent with the launch of the 2020 NFL season. Times of Northwest Indiana file photo
The Book sports book at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond has reopened for fan seating concurrent with the launch of the 2020 NFL season. Times of Northwest Indiana file photo
The return of professional sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic is reviving Indiana's nascent sports wagering industry, notwithstanding new competition from Illinois and Michigan.

Data released Friday by the Indiana Gaming Commission show $169 million in sports bets were placed in August at Indiana casinos or through affiliated mobile applications.

That was more than double Indiana's $70.9 million July sports wagering handle. But it's still nearly 10% lower than the record $187.2 million in sports bets recorded in February prior to most coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Dan Nita, regional president for Caesars Entertainment Inc., parent company of the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, said he would not be surprised to see Indiana set a new record for sports wagering handle in September with pro baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer all playing at the same time.

"I would anticipate having great results. I'll just be curious to see how things shuffle out over the next couple months," Nita said.

Legal sports wagering began in Indiana on Sept. 1, 2019, with mobile wagering starting a few months later. Casinos in both Michigan and Illinois were due to launch sports wagering in March, but due to the pandemic only began coming online this summer.

Nita said the Horseshoe reopened seating at The Book sports book on its gaming floor concurrent with Thursday's launch of the 2020 NFL season.

The Horseshoe also is reopening additional entrances to the casino and continuing to rearrange games in the casino to better accommodate what patrons want, consistent with the COVID-19 protections mandated by the Gaming Commission.

"Like we do with everything else, we've heard the feedback and we've quickly modified to enhance the guest experience," Nita said.

Aside from sports wagering, Indiana's 13 state-regulated casinos in August collectively took in $173.1 million in win, or revenue after paying winning bettors.

That was just $2.6 million less than July and only $17.1 million behind August 2019 when there were no state-mandated caps on table game seating or slot machine social distancing requirements to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.

The Horseshoe, as usual, was the Region and state casino win leader, taking in $29.3 million last month.

August win at Ameristar East Chicago tallied $19.2 million, Gary's Majestic Star casinos $10.9 million and $9.4 million at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, which is closing four hours every night for deep cleaning.

Data show those results each were slight declines compared to July.

Nita attributed the drop to a falloff in the pent-up demand from the March 16-June 15 period when Indiana casinos were closed due to COVID-19, coupled with the July 1 reopening of Illinois casinos.
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