COVID-19 Lockdown Inhibits Indiana’s Gambling Industry in 2020
There’s an old saying in the gambling industry that in the end the house always wins. But 2020 changed the equation since apparently everybody lost. The mandatory three-month lockdown at Indiana casinos between March and May to curb the spread of COVID-19 led to a record number of job losses and millions of dollars lost in tax revenue.
This was the first time since 1965 that no casinos were operating in Indiana. The massive loss suffered during one of the prime seasons will take a few years to recuperate. Even as land-based casinos in the state reopened in June, social distancing norms forced the operators to run at limited capacity.
Adjusting to the New Normal
The gaming floor had to be rearranged according to the new regulations set by the state, which drastically curtailed the number of slot machines, tables, poker rooms, and restaurant hours. Moreover, the casinos were asked not to host or promote events and tournaments that would draw a large number of punters.
The Indiana Gaming Commission also mandated casino workers and patrons to get a body temperature check along with answering a health screening questionnaire before walking into an establishment. Wearing a mask and other face-coverings are a must unless seated at the restaurant or enjoying a drink. However, punters must maintain a safe distance from others during such activities.
Surging COVID-19 cases in the state between October and November means that these restrictions will be in place well into 2021. Even though hopes of a vaccine is around the corner, it’s too early to predict its viability in the coming months.
How Indiana Plans to Cope with Diminishing Tax Revenue
In September, the revenue from the state’s casinos after paying the winning bet was $170 million, just $8 million down from September 2019. Indiana’s sports betting handles have also posted strong figures in the past couple of months, crossing the $200 million mark for the first time this year in September. The figures began rising as most of the major league competitions resumed after a brief period of dormancy due to COVID-19.
While the situation is hopeful of recovering soon, there is no getting back the $575 million lost during the lockdown this year. Governor Eric Holcomb said despite the tax revenue loss, Indiana will bounce back on its feet soon. He also announced a relief package from the state’s $2 billion reserve fund.
“As Indiana works to inhibit the impact of COVID-19, I’m grateful for the years of service that allowed our state to be financially prepared to tackle this storm. We are as dedicated as ever to ensure that our citizens continue to receive uninterrupted services without jeopardizing Indiana’s annual responsibilities while adjusting to the new normal” Governor Holcomb added.
On the other hand, the local government leaders with limited funds to allocate during the pandemic immediately instructed the infrastructure projects and all other municipal spendings to be stopped as the revenue from casino taxes slowly dried up.