Indiana casinos see a comeback despite COVID-19 challenges

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INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s casinos are making a comeback. At the end of the fiscal year, gambling revenue in the state fell short of projections by $145 million but the industry is seeing early signs of recovery.

“We’re really excited with what we saw from the month of July,” said Casino Association of Indiana President Matt Bell.

Last month’s Indiana casino revenue was very similar to this time last year— a good sign for the industry and local communities hurt by temporary casino closures.

“We have a lot of folks come to the community to check out the casino,” said Thomas Broderick, the democratic Mayor of Anderson, Indiana. “We’ve had some room nights at the hotels that we have lost out on, lost some restaurant business and other tourist business that comes in.”

The city of Anderson is budgeting 25 percent less for next year when it comes to the expected revenue from its local casino.

“We hope things will be better than that but at the same time we want to be cautious on our budgeting,” said Mayor Broderick.

It’s unknown how many casino jobs were cut in Indiana. Before the pandemic— there were about 13,000 statewide. COVID-19 safety precautions are delaying the return of all positions.

“For instance, cocktail servers on the floor are not something that we are doing anymore, bartenders who worked in our bars that are still closed are not back, limitations of table games necessitate fewer dealers,” explained Bell.

The legalization of sports betting is proving extremely helpful during this hard time. But the Casino Association of Indiana said state government needs to also pass a COVID-19 liability protection law to continue success.

“That’s crucial because I think as we weigh how we reinvest, how we reopen, that certainty will make a huge difference not only for our industry, but for businesses across the spectrum,” said Bell.

Controlling the spread of COVID-19 is the highest priority for casinos and their respective communities. They say worst case scenario would be another mandatory closure.

“Hopefully we won’t go there,” said Mayor Broderick. “It would be a big hit.”

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(This story was originally published on Aug. 12, 2020)

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