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Indiana sports betting: Look inside one of first casinos to offer new wagering
30th August, 22:38LAWRENCEBURG -- The scrolling is constant, mesmerizing actually. The names of team after team making their way down massive screens with odds -- +225, -115, +105. A wagering counter sits nearby with five empty stations and monitors, ready for the ticket writers to arrive. Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" is blaring overhead.
And a man named Hugh Aufill, who is arguably the sports book manager in Indiana who most embodies Vegas, is talking about what a blast this state is about to have.
Inside Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg, the pressure was on Thursday as a massive gambling house prepared to be one of the first two sites to offer legalized sports betting in Indiana starting Sunday.
More than 20 television screens had been added inside Hops House 99 bar, where the sports book is located, and out on the casino floor. Two sports betting kiosks stand inside the bar and eight are sprinkled throughout the floor, letting a gambler playing blackjack slide over and make a quick bet on an NFL game and then quickly get back to cards.
Hollywood was one of three casinos authorized this week by the Indiana Gaming Commission to go live with retail sports betting Sunday. Ameristar East Chicago and Indiana Grand Racing & Casino in Shelbyville are also approved, though Indiana Grand is the only other casino expected to start taking sports bets Sunday.
Eleven other spots also have permission to launch sports wagering, with varying opening dates, pending regulatory approval, the commission said.
And while the first few days might be overwhelming to people learning a new kind of wagering, Aufill said Indiana -- with its longstanding love affair with sports -- is about to fall in love with sports betting.
"The electricity and the vibe and the excitement that will be in here," said Aufill, who was born and raised in Las Vegas, "will blow the roof off this place."
The sports book has taken over a freshly renovated space in the back of Hops House with scrolling boards, game screens and plenty of tables so people can watch the games they just bet on with a beer and a burger.
"They can be here from noon to midnight if they want," Aufill said.
People will be able to bet on virtually any sport that's being played, in the United States and all over the world. NFL, NBA, college football and basketball, the U.S. Open, Major League Baseball, hockey, soccer and golf.
"There is cricket you can bet on, for goodness sake," Aufill said. "There is darts you can bet on."
Aufill said he fears patrons would be overwhelmed if they knew all the options available to them, so he will be inside the sports book mingling and helping people figure it all out.
When the first bet is placed Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (barring any regulatory glitch), sheets listing every sport on which a bet can be placed will be available.
In addition to wagering on current games, people can make bets on futures -- who will win the national basketball championship, who will win the Super Bowl, how many over-under total wins for a specific team.
"Like I say, if I keep going, it is intimidating," Aufill said.
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One of the simplest bets to explain is one between two teams -- take the regular season opener that pits the Colts against the Chargers on Sept. 8 -- a money line bet. Each team will have odds -- say the Colts were -115 and the Chargers +108.
A minus means you have to bet that number ($115) to win $100. A plus means you need to put up $100 to win the number ($108). There's no point spread or handicap; the team wagered on simply has to win the game.
The most popular sports bets, in addition to the money line, are betting the spread and the total, said Eugene Schupak, product partner manager with Kambi, a technology platform provider for sports books, including Hollywood Casino's.
A total, also called an over-under bet, is a wager on whether the combined score of a single game will be over or under what the oddsmaker sets it as before the game. All the bettor needs to focus on, in this case, is the combined score of the teams at the end of the game.
A point spread bet can be explained by this NFL example given at oddsshark.com.
If Dallas has this spread and odds, -4.5 (-110), and New York this, +4.5 (-110), Dallas is a 4.5-point favorite, which means a gamber who bets on the Cowboys would need the team to win the game by five points or more to win. On the other hand, New York is a 4.5-point underdog which means a gambler betting on the Giants would would need to win, or not lose the game by more than four points for the gambler to win.
If Dallas wins 20-17, the Cowboys don't cover the 4.5 point spread (they only won by 3 points). A bettor who gambled Dallas would win is a loser. A bettor who gambled that New York would win is a winner.
A final, less popular but bigger money bet, is the parlay. Instead of making multiple, single bets, a parlay bet combines two or more wagers into one bet. Each bet within the parlay must win in order for the parlay to win. If any bet in the parlay loses, the entire wager loses.
The biggest change for bettors, Schupak predicts, will be the anticipation and excitement watching games.
"Whenever you have money on something, you're a lot more likely to be interested," he said. There might even be a Colts fan rooting for the Patriots -- because money is riding on the game.
"Money changes everything," Aufill says with a smile, just as Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" takes over the speakers. That's fitting, considering the last three months inside Hollywood Casino.
The U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for states to legalize sports betting in May 2018, lifting a 25-year-old federal law that banned such wagering outside Nevada.
Almost exactly a year later, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill legalizing sports betting in the state. Indiana on Sunday will become the 13th state to offer sports wagering.
But sports betting sites had to show they had met more than a dozen requirements before receiving authorization from the gaming commission.
Among them: House rules, certification approvals from independent gaming test labs, a minors plan, a surveillance plan, cage/cashiers plan, job descriptions and organizational charts, staff training and a betting catalog that meets the commission's directives regarding wagers and events.
Since landing at Hollywood Casino, Aufill has spent three months getting everything in order for the Sept. 1 launch.
"For all of the minutiae we got through and all the hoops you have to go through for the Indiana gaming commission, I tell them, 'The big red panic button? Get off of it,'" he said. "It's OK. This really will be all right."
Aufill gets it, though, he said. After all, he's dealing with money.
"It's the same thing as what we do out there (in the casino), whether you're dealing with cards or doing this," he said. "The eye in the sky is on us. Every transaction, it's logged. Everything is there. And we're ready."
One of the most exciting parts of legalized sports betting for Aufill is the opportunity to welcome a new demographic into his casino.
"Now everybody that's a sports fan...now I can draw them in here," he said. "It will provide a completely different patron base."
Sports teams, too, stand to gain.
"There's a financial benefit. The other part is the more strategic piece," said Roger Vandersnick, chief sales and marketing officer of the Colts. "What we know is that when people are more engaged with things -- so fantasy football or sports betting -- - they're bigger fans. They watch more TV, they come to more games, they purchase more merchandise and they listen to more on (the) radio."
Statistics show that sports betting tends to draw a younger demographic, Vandersnick said. "That's another strategic opportunity for us to bring new, younger fans into the franchise."
Inside Hollywood Casino, Aufill expects the same. In fact, he said, he can only guess at the onslaught of new customers who will file into his casino beginning Sunday.
"I expect a huge crush of people," he said. "It's going to be a blast."
Two casinos say they will be open for sports betting Sunday. Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg, 777 Hollywood Blvd., Lawrenceburg, and Indiana Grand Racing & Casino, 4300 N. Michigan Rd., Shelbyville
-- Mobile sports betting has also been legalized in Indiana, but is not yet up and running. Hollywood Casino expects to have it launched at the first of the year and other casinos have varying dates, depending on when their retail wagering begins.
-- Hollywood Casino will have a grand opening for sports betting Sept. 7 with Cincinnati legends Anthony Munoz and Tony Perez in attendance.
-- The Indiana Gaming Commission has allowed 12 other sites throughout the state to conduct sports betting upon regulatory approval. They are:
Winner's Circle off-track betting locations in Downtown Indianapolis, Clarksville and New Haven
IndyStar Colts Insider Jim Ayello contributed to this story.