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sports betting

People gather Sept. 4 at the Horseshoe Casino for the opening The Book, the Hammond casino's venue for placing wagers on sporting events.

Sports fans placed bets at Indiana casinos totaling more than $34.5 million in September — the first month of legal sports wagering in the Hoosier State.

According to data released Thursday by the Indiana Gaming Commission, football was the most popular sport for wagering, accounting for $20.7 million, or 60%, of the money bet.

It was followed by parlay wagers on the outcome of multiple games or sports (28%), baseball (10%) and other sports, including basketball (2%).

The total amount bet in Indiana, which is known as the "handle," was more than four times larger than the sports bets placed in Iowa during its first half-month of legal sports wagering that began Aug. 15, according to state records.

In both states, not all casinos started accepting sports wagers on the first day available for betting, which means the handle almost certainly will be larger in future months.

"We're really encouraged by the level of interest and excitement, and getting these things opened was terrific," said Dan Nita, regional president for Caesars Entertainment, which last month launched sports books at its four Indiana casinos, including the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, and three off-track betting facilities.

"There's a lot more foot traffic coming into the (Hammond) property to place their wagers. We saw upticks in food revenue and beverage revenue, a little bit of the slots and little bit more in tables as well. In the spirit of rising tides lift all boats, adding a new amenity benefited many facets of our business."

Mobile sports wagering, which began Oct. 4 in Indiana through two companies — with several more set to come online in coming months — also is likely to pump up Indiana's handle.

In Pennsylvania, for example, which launched mobile sports wagering in May, the August handle was $109 million, with $83.2 million, or 76%, coming through bets placed through mobile devices, as opposed to in-person bets made at the state's casinos, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

The most popular spot to bet on sports in Northwest Indiana last month was the Hammond Horseshoe, which attracted $9 million in sports wagers, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission.

Nita said bets have ranged from $5, the minimum, to $1,000 or more. He also was surprised to discover many people prefer to place their wagers first thing in the morning, and said the Horseshoe soon might begin opening The Book prior to 11 a.m. on weekdays.

The Horseshoe was followed by Ameristar Casino in East Chicago with a September handle of $5.4 million and Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City at $3.9 million.

The Majestic Star casinos in Gary are not accepting sports wagers since the casinos are slated to close late next year and be replaced by the land-based Hard Rock Casino Gary, which plans show will have a dedicated sports wagering area.

Despite the large sums being bet on sports in Indiana, the state's take in September was a relatively minuscule $813,103, compared to the $37.8 million it collected from casinos last month in wagering taxes on slot machines and table games.

That's largely because Indiana's 9.5% sports wagering tax rate intentionally was set lower than many other states in the hope of attracting numerous sports wagering operators to Indiana, and the tax only applies to revenue retained by the casinos after paying winning bets.

Aside from sports wagering, gaming receipts at Northwest Indiana casinos were down 4% in September compared to August, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission.

Though the $75.3 million in Region casino win last month was 1% more than September 2018.

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