SOUTHERN INDIANA — Each year, more than 100 million Americans tune in to watch the Super Bowl, consistently making it one of the top television programs of all time in the United States.
More of the same is expected on Feb. 2 when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV to determine who will reign supreme as the NFL's top team.
What's different, however, is the ability of Hoosiers to make money off of the big game. In the wake of the legalization of sports betting in Indiana last September, local sportsbooks are preparing for one the year's biggest events.
It isn't just the final score of the game open for bets. Instead, gamblers will likely be able to place wagers on up to 300 different items, according to Caesars Southern Indiana sportsbook and poker manager Jimmy Allen.
“There are going to be bets on what color Gatorade will be dumped on the coach at the end of the game and how long the national anthem takes," he said. "They’ve even broken it down to how long the ‘home of the brave’ line is going to take to sing."
With a $5 minimum bet, there's sure to be plenty of money changing hands in the run-up to the game.
The Book at Caesars has picked up steam since the new land-based casino opened in December, with the sportsbook having previously operated on the riverboat since Sept. 12. Allen, who's been at the casino since it opened in 1998, said numbers are up roughly 40% since moving off the water into the new facility.
“It’s been crazy," he said. "We did three months on the boat before we moved over here, and they were busy and it was good. But since we’ve moved over here, it’s a whole different world. The atmosphere on the weekends is incredible in here. You can’t find a seat. It’s packed, and it’s just a fun atmosphere.”
Playing a role in the Book's success is the fact that sports betting is legal in just 13 states, with none of Indiana's neighbors being among them. This extends Caesars' potential pool of patrons far beyond the confines of Southern Indiana.
The popularity has been apparent, even during games less significant that the Super Bowl.
“Even last weekend with the playoff games, there were people waiting around," Allen said. "All the seats were full. It was standing room only. As the first game ended, people immediately filed in and filled up the seats for the second game. It was filled from noon to 9 p.m.”
To prepare for the influx of guests for the Super Bowl, Allen has made calls to casinos in other states to learn what to expect. They have informed him that it's their busiest day of the year, alongside the weeks of March Madness.
While extra seats will be brought into the Book to accommodate the increased number of guests, kiosks will also be set up in the Volt Lounge, just across the gaming floor. Overflow guests who are unable to find seats at the Book will be able to place wagers and watch the game there.
Fans wanting to have a bit of extra fun have the opportunity to take advantage of the Book's three "fan caves." Each private area seats up to six people. Two of the three have already been sold, with Allen expecting the final one to be taken soon.
"It comes with a bar tab and food," he said. "You get your own TV. You get privileges to go to the front of the line to place your bets. You get an iPad to control your TV. An Xbox is included with it, so if you get tired of watching the games, you can play Xbox on your own TV.”
For those wanting to skip the drive to Elizabeth, the Winner's Circle in Clarksville will also be taking bets for the Super Bowl.
Kyle Waggoner, vice president of hospitality at Indiana Grand Racing and Casino, which is the parent company of the Winner's Circle, said staff at the betting facility are also expecting a full house.
The company is happy to see more potential business come in, but also planning accordingly.
“We’re excited," Waggoner said. "It’s the first really major event that we’ll host since it’s become legal. We anticipate seeing an abundance of folks. We already have had this week. I expect next week to be the same."
More employees will be on hand on the weekend of the Super Bowl. Also helping handle the flow of business will be new self-serve kiosks that were installed last week.
The kiosks will allow guests to skip the lines to place wagers with writers and instead do it themselves, which should "significantly decrease wait time," Waggoner said.
As far as what kind of numbers the Winner's Circle could see, Waggoner said it's hard to tell at this point, with it being the first Super Bowl since sports betting was legalized.
“We’ve leaned on some sportsbooks that have experience with the Super Bowl who have knowledge," he said. "If it’s any indication of what we saw with the NCAA championship, there’s no doubt the facility is going to be full. The beauty with being in Clarksville right on the river is we get to see a lot of people coming over from Kentucky.”
BIG MONEY ON THE LINE FOR BIG SCREEN AWARDS
The Academy Awards may cater to a different demographic than the NFL, but the gambling opportunities for the two groups will be the same in Indiana this year.
On Feb. 9, just one week after the NFL's championship game, the 92nd Oscars will hand out awards to the top movies. Hoosiers will have the opportunity to place wagers on their favorite flicks now that the Indiana Gaming Commission has approved odds for the award ceremony.
With the move, Indiana joined New Jersey as the only states in the country to allow betting on the Oscars.
Kyle Waggoner, vice president of hospitality at Indiana Grand Racing and Casino, said he is excited over the gaming commission's "forward-thinking" decision to offer the unique opportunity.
"I never thought I would see the day where we would be playing the Academy Awards here in February, but here we are," he said. "I am happy to say guests will be able to come in and watch it at [the Winner's Circle in Clarksville].”
Many of the books in New Jersey offered odds on the six major categories — best picture, director, actor, actress, supporting actor and supporting actress — in 2019. This year, it's possible for new ground to be covered by including the 18 other awards handed out at the ceremony.