INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time in three years, Indianapolis will not be the backdrop for any NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games.
Indy hosted first and second-round games in 2022 and the entire tournament under COVID-19 protocols in 2021.
Still, businesses downtown expect the first weekend of March Madness to still be one with huge crowds.
”We will be packed all weekend from Thursday on,” said Laura Stark, the assistant general manager at Winner’s Circle.
Stark said the first few days of the NCAA Tournament are some of the busiest days of the year for the downtown sportsbook.
”It’s going to be wall-to-wall people in here,” Stark said.
The American Gaming Association expects nearly a quarter of all American adults will place a bet on March Madness with those bets totaling around $15 billion.
”Mobile apps have come into play but we still do really good business,” Stark said.
Even with Indianapolis not hosting NCAA Tournament games this year, Stark said business will be roughly the same, with fewer people from outside Indy. Jeff Huron, general manager at District Tap Downtown, said he agrees.
”It’s going to be a little different, not as much out-of-town action,” Huron said. “I still think we get some loyal IU, Purdue fans, just basketball fans, in general.”
1 seed Purdue and 4 seed Indiana both play on Friday.
”Both are doing great,” Huron said. “The better they do, the better we do.”
The good news is March Madness isn’t staying away from Indy long.
The Circle City will host first and second-round games in 2024, the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 will be in Lucas Oil Stadium in 2025 and the Final Four will be there in 2026. The Women’s Final Four will also be in Indy in 2028 and the Men’s Final Four will be back again in 2029.
”We’re ready for it,” Huron said. “We take what we did last time, we learned where we could improve, and we apply that to the next big event.”
Stark said they’re already looking ahead to those next few years.
”We’ve already put plans in motion for those events that are coming ahead because we want to stay ahead of the game,” Stark said.
While March is one of the biggest sports betting months in the country, it is also Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
”Problem gambling is when you gamble enough that it affects some part of your life,” said Christina Gray, the Executive Director of the Indiana Council on Problem Gaming.
Gray said they have seen more calls to their center in the last few years.
”I think that we have seen a slight increase in calls because of the sports betting,” Gray said. “Especially, since it’s online and people can just sit in their homes and bet and they can bet all the time.”
There are resources for problem gamblers and their friends and family on the Indiana Council on Problem Gaming website.
If you or a family member needs help you can call 800-994-8448 or text INGAMB to 53342 for resources.