Now-legal sports wagering is ‘unique experience’

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Onie Braun, left, of Tell City, and his son, John Braun, of Cannelton, use the new sports betting kiosks at the French Lick Casino on Thursday. The casino transformed a dance area into a sports betting lounge after Indiana sports betting legislation passed in May.


FRENCH LICK — Like any sports enthusiast, John Braun of Cannelton has made his fair share of bets with friends. It’s the worst-kept secret at every bar in the United States: Often lighthearted, under-the-table sports wagering has been commonplace for years.

Now, sports junkies like Braun can legally place bets at a historic venue not too far from Dubois County.

Thursday, surrounded by the dings of slot machines, Braun dished out dollars on a Super Bowl pick as well as baseball and football games at the French Lick Casino — a location that, like a handful of others across the state, has recently taken the dive into the world of sports betting.

“I’ve always thought Indiana was missing out on the opportunity to provide entertainment for everyone, and also some tax dollars for the state,” Braun said of sports gambling, which became legal in Indiana this month. “With the Supreme Court ruling that legalized it, I was really pleased to see we were the first ones in the Midwest to jump on board.”

Christy and Jason Welch, both of Georgetown, watch TV screens in the new sports-betting lounge at the French Lick Casino on Thursday.

Braun explained that the chance of winning money on the outcome of a contest — whether it’s $5 or $100 — increases his interest in the event and makes it more exciting. Knowing that he’s doing it through a legal avenue is also a relief.

It brings a “peace of mind to know that I’m not breaking the law,” he said.

The French Lick operation launched last week. A former dance floor in the casino has been transformed into a lounge viewing area outfitted with wall-to-wall TV screens, club chairs and table seating. Following the passage of Indiana sports betting legislation in May, planning work immediately began on the immersive viewing mecca.

According to the French Lick Resort website, later this fall, the new Valley Sports Bar — which will be located just a short walk from the casino floor — will be yet another fun spot to follow all the sports action.

The sports betting lounge at the French Lick Casino includes wall-to-wall TV screens, club chairs, a bar and table seating.

The betting process is a simple one. Gamblers can either visit a sports writer station in the casino or use nearby self-service kiosks to place their wagers. Upon entering their bets, they receive a ticket, and once their event has ended, they can present that ticket to collect their earnings.

Those who leave town before their event ends can mail their ticket to the casino, and a check will be sent back to them. A mobile app could also become an option in the future, as French Lick Casino, in association with Rush Street Interactive, has plans to launch an online sportsbook in Indiana later this year — subject to Indiana Gaming Commission approval.

For now, inside the casino’s walls, you could bet on which team will win a game tonight or five months in the future. You could bet on who will win the 2019 Heisman Trophy, or which team will score more runs in a particular baseball inning. The list ranges from standard to obscure, with many, many options.

Resort officials said Thursday the addition of sports gambling bolsters the offerings that were already available to guests. The hope was that it would attract new people who might not normally come to the grounds. Through just one week, it already seems like its working.

“I think we offer a unique experience all around,” said Jeff Whereatt, the casino’s director of slots. “Us, being the resort and all we have to offer. It provides an experience for an entire family. If they wanted to come, [and] if one of the adults wanted to come over here and bet on sports, and the others wanted to go horseback riding — that’s our special niche that we can offer.”

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