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Gamblers returning to Indiana casinos despite COVID-19 limitations
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Gamblers returning to Indiana casinos despite COVID-19 limitations

The unprecedented three-month shutdown of Indiana casinos due to the coronavirus pandemic apparently only whetted the appetite of gamblers to try their luck when the gaming facilities finally reopened June 15.

Data released recently by the Indiana Gaming Commission show Hoosier casinos tallied $105 million in "win," or revenue after paying successful bets, during the half-month of operations in June.

That was more than half the $181 million in win recorded by the casinos during the full month of June 2019, and came despite state regulations sharply limiting table game seating and slot machine availability to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.

"As a state, Indiana casinos made more money with fewer positions and time," said Sara Tait, executive director of the Gaming Commission.

As usual, Hammond's Horseshoe Casino led the state's 13 casinos with $20 million in win on $169 million in slot machine and table game wagers.

Dan Nita, Horseshoe general manager, said he's been pleased with the volume of business since the lakefront casino reopened last month.

"Much work was put into the development of new health and safety protocols in conjunction with both regulators and infectious disease experts," Nita said.

"While it is obvious that the business operating model has changed from March when we closed, team members and guests have been pleased by the changes that were put into place. We are finding new ways to gradually add back amenities while keeping social distancing top-of-mind."

According to the Gaming Commission, Ameristar Casino in East Chicago collected $11 million in June win, Gary's Majestic Star casinos $7 million, and the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City $6 million.

Statewide, $30 million was wagered on sports last month, either at Indiana casinos or through mobile sports wagering applications affiliated with the state's casinos.

More than 88% of those sports wagers passed through the Region's Ameristar, Blue Chip or Horseshoe casinos, according to the Gaming Commission.

Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayIndiana.com, said she expects sports wagering to surge in the months ahead as professional and college teams resume play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Sportsbooks have done an excellent job over the last few months in keeping bettors engaged with unconventional betting sports, but those sports can’t replace the loss of basketball and baseball," Welman said. "But the return of baseball and basketball, and local interest with the return of the Indiana Pacers and Chicago-area teams, July should bring a big step toward recovery."

Gallery: Preview of Blue Chip Casino's new health and safety protocols

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