HAMMOND, Ind. — A new sports book opening at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond Wednesday is expected to bring new tax revenues and local jobs, but is raising concerns among gambling critics.
Chicagoans no longer have to go all the way to Las Vegas to bet on a game, after Indiana officials held a momentous ribbon-cutting at the Horseshoe Casino Wednesday, just in time for Thursday's Bears-Packers game.
“We purposely got the sports book open 24 hours before the marquee game of the NFL season,” said Dan Nita, Ceasars Entertainment.
Caesars Entertainment, the Hammond Horseshoe Casino's parent company, is putting their chips on the gleaming new sports book. The new venue allowing bets on 19 sports, from the NFL to the National Basketball Association to pro golf, boxing - even cricket.
Hammond’s mayor Tom McDermott placed the first bet, wagering $100 that the Bears will win the Super Bowl. McDermott said he's pleased with the potential for local revenues and casino jobs for residents.
Former Chicago Bear Matt Forte was on hand to help Hammond celebrate the arrival of legalized sports betting Wednesday.
“I’m not a gambling man myself. I usually only bet on myself because I know me the best,” Forte said.
Nationwide, the size of the black market illegal sports betting universe is estimated to be nearly $150 billion a year. Now some of that money will be legally flowing to the Hoosier state, as experts estimate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue is likely to flow. There are 12 casinos in the state and three off-track betting sites where wagering could soon begin in Indiana.
But anti-gambling activists are not celebrating the arrival of legalized sports betting, fearing a new phone app that makes betting possible will ensnare new gamblers.
“The younger people, they don’t like slot machines but they do like sports,” critic Anita Bedell said. “Young men who do not go to casinos they will be attracted because of the sports element.”
Not only did the Hoosier state beat Illinois to the punch, but legal sports betting is also underway in Iowa. The Illinois Gaming Commission is still working to formulate a rollout plan with a 30-day public comment period.
Overshadowing Illinois’ efforts to legalize sports gambling are concerns about the tax structure being envisioned for a new Chicago casino. Mayor Lori Lightfoot is among those fearing that a Chicago casino is not viable under the current arrangement outlined by state legislators.