Introduction to Indiana Slots Return-To-Player 2021
All U.S. casinos closed for months in 2020. Loss on revenue from being closed caused some to never reopen. A big concern for Indiana slots enthusiasts and others is if casinos have reduced their return-to-player (RTP) and, if did, have they stopped doing it yet? Let’s look closely at Indiana slots return-to-player return statistics.
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Casino Financial Woes
Every U.S. casino closed in 2020 due to the global pandemic. These 989 casinos closed quickly and re-opened slowly, if ever. At least 100 casinos have yet to re-open and may never do so.
The pandemic has been tough on casinos. There’s no doubt abrupt closures financially hurt the U.S. casino industry. There financial woes continued after re-opening due to social distancing, often resulting in a 50% reduction of available slot machines.
When my large audience of slots enthusiasts started returning to casinos, they reported “tight” slot machine game play. But for the most part, slots players shrugged and said, “Well, that’s understandable.” We were just glad casinos were able to re-open.
But one month turned into six months, and six months turned into a year. Eventually, slots enthusiasts began to ask casinos, “Are you done, yet?”
Let’s check the Indiana gaming control board’s return statistics to see what’s what.
Indiana’s Slots Industry: An Overview
Indiana has fourteen commercial casinos including two proposed casinos and one American Indian tribal casino.
Indiana’s 1851 constitution banned lotteries, historically interpreted by courts to mean all gambling. In 1988, Indiana approved a constitutional amendment removing this ban. Within months, cities with economic difficulties had casino proposals including ten riverboat casinos.
In 2007, Indiana allowed horse tracks to have as many as 2,000 electronic gaming machines. Further, the state legislature approved land-based casinos in 2015 and allowed riverboat casinos to move into a land-based casino facility if located on their current property.
The state of Indiana has a federally recognized American Indian tribe. In 2015, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians successfully negotiated a tribal-state compact subsequently approved by the U.S. Department of Interior.
By the compact’s terms, the tribal casino could only have Class II bingo-style gaming machines. In 2018, the tribe opened a casino in South Bend.
The Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) regulates commercial gaming in Indiana.
The IGC has its Gaming Control Division as a law enforcement arm with a primary role to investigate illegal gambling. Enforcement of illegal gambling at bars and taverns is by the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission.
Indiana’s fourteen commercial casinos, including two proposed casinos in Terra Haute and Gary, are:
- Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago, 11 miles northwest of Gary.
- Belterra Casino Resort in Florence, 116 miles southeast of Indianapolis on the Kentucky border.
- Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa in Michigan City, 26 miles northeast of Gary.
- Caesars Southern Indiana in Elizabeth, 123 miles south of Indianapolis across the river from Louisville, Kentucky.
- French Lick Resort, 100 miles south of Indianapolis.
- Hard Rock Northern Indiana in Gary – proposed casino with Spring 2021 planned opening.
- Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson, 43 miles northeast of Indianapolis.
- Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg, 98 miles southeast of Indianapolis on the Ohio border.
- Horseshoe Hammond, 20 miles northwest of Gary.
- Indiana Grand Racing Casino in Shelbyville, 27 miles southeast of Indianapolis.
- Majestic Star Casinos I & II in Gary.
- Rising Star Casino Resort, 105 miles southeast of Indianapolis on the Kentucky border.
- Rocksino at Terre Haute – proposed casino with 2022 planned opening.
Indiana’s tribal casino is Four Winds Casino South Bend, 150 miles north of Indianapolis directly east of Chicago on the border to Michigan. It offers 1,800 Class II competition-style gaming machines alongside live poker tables.
Unique to Indiana, the table game of poker is a skill-based game and, therefore, just another Class II game as players bet against each other and aren’t betting “against the house” or casino.
Indiana’s Return Statistics for Slots
The IGC offers comprehensive annual reports on all aspects of legal gaming in Indiana.
The casino hold percent for each commercial casino is WIN divided by COIN IN. Subtraction from 100% gives the player win percent. Calculate annual win% from p. 43 of the FY 2020 Annual Report. Beginning in 2020, this annual report no longer offers annual win% by slot machine denomination.
Monthly win% is from p. 6 of the pdf, or worksheet Sheet6 of the MS Excel spreadsheet, from Monthly Revenue Reports.
Indiana has no theoretical payout limits. However monthly and annual return statistics are publicly available for commercial casinos. Neither theoretical payout nor return statistics are available for Indiana’s tribal casino.
Indiana’s Monthly Player Win Percentages
The return statistics for Indiana’s commercial casinos available in the IGC’s archives go back to calendar year 1996. But, for now, I’ll focus on 2019 and going forward. I’ve plotted the monthly player win percentages at Indiana casinos from the beginning of January 2019 thru March 2021.
The gap in data is from when Indiana’s casinos closed for two full months, April and May in 2020, as a public health response to the pandemic.
All Indiana casinos have player win percentage from about 89% to just over 92%, or a range of around 3%. Within that range, most casinos are usually quite consistent regarding their monthly player win percentage for the last two years and more.
As a clear indication of how well casinos target their player win percentages, we can see how each casino has chosen and closely maintain their monthly return-to-player.
Before closing in early 2020, three casinos chose to have relatively high returns: Rising Star, French Lick, and Blue Chip An exception exists, however, where Rising Star shows a significant drop for October 2019. After reopening in mid-2020, only French Lick maintained their relatively high player win percentage in 2020.
Three casinos with roughly middle-of-the-pack player win percentages prior to closing were Belterra, Hoosier Park, and Indiana Grand. Relatively lower returns-to-player can be seen for the remaining eight casinos in Indiana, especially Majestic Star II and Tropicana.
We can also see some unusual behavior in March and June 2020. Abrupt closures in March 2020 were likely a factor for that month, including how thirteen out of fourteen casinos increased their monthly player return-to-player. The single exception was Tropicana, who decided to lower their monthly return.
The 2021 monthly returns are decreasing for nine out of fourteen casinos. This is worth mentioning because it indicates a trend of what we might expect in the next few months or perhaps 2021 entirely.
Rather than digging deeper into this casino-by-casino data over the last 27 months, let’s examine the statewide monthly returns to learn if this trend holds up on average.
In the statewide average, we can clearly see return to player after re-opening have been lower than the 2019 returns used as a baseline with which to compare 2020 and 2021 returns. We can also see that the average return has been steadily dropping since December 2020.
I’ve already completed similar analyzes for Florida’s commercial casinos as well as Mississippi and New Jersey casinos. Now, we can compare their statewide average monthly return-to-player to that of Indiana.
The data shows that Indiana has the relatively lowest statewide average return for all four states, with the single exception of Mississippi’s March 2020 return.
However, it’s also clear from their curve’s relative “flatness” that Indiana has better month-to-month control over their monthly return-to-player. Indiana’s month-to-month variability is even slightly better than New Jersey’s Atlantic casinos.
Changes in Indiana’s Monthly Slots Revenue to 2019 Baseline
Month-to-month, did Indiana’s casinos lose revenue in 2020 and so far in 2021 when compared to 2019 as a baseline? And how much profit or loss was it?
Here’s a plot of Indiana’s state data for slots revenue from the beginning of 2020 subtracted from its corresponding month in 2019.
Indiana casinos had no slots revenue in April and May 2020. Also, they had less slots revenue for March and June 2020, due to closing for part of these months.
From March thru June 2020, revenue losses were substantial when compared to being open in 2019, as clearly seen in the above graph. Note that Indiana Grand had the highest slots revenue losses, followed by Horseshoe Hammond and Hoosier Park.
As it served us well earlier to identify trends, let’s also check the statewide average revenue loss.
In January and February 2020, Indiana casinos were on track to making an improved $80 million and $160 million revenue gain as compared to the 2019 baseline. However, beginning in March 2020 slots revenue has been underperforming.
Let’s now compare slot revenue differences from the 2019 baseline for Indiana and New Jersey together.
While peak losses were similar, between $1.5B and $2B, New Jersey’s casinos stayed closed an extra month due to the pandemic.
As we can see, Atlantic City casinos began recovering one month after Indiana casinos re-opened.
Summary of Indiana Slots Return-To-Player 2021
All U.S. casinos closed for months in 2020. Loss on revenue from being closed caused some to never reopen. A big concern for Indiana slots enthusiasts and others is if casinos have reduced their return-to-player (RTP) and, if did, have they stopped doing it yet? Looking closely at Indiana slots return-to-player return statistics, it’s apparent they have not.
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