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Indiana Gambling Online and Live

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Indiana has a long history of gambling within its state borders, but it didn’t always have the wealth of options you can find there today. While casinos can be found in the state, that is a relatively new development, one that came only after a few rounds of expansion for the industry. Now that there is a full land-based gaming selection, the only question is whether there will be a similar push to regulate online casinos in Indiana going forward.

Online Gambling Not on the Radar

At the moment, Indiana does not regulate any notable forms of online gambling. That nearly changed in 2015, when the state legislature passed a bill that would have allowed residents to bet on horse racing over the Internet – something that can be done in a number of states. However, Governor Mike Pence vetoed the bill, and lawmakers apparently lacked the votes to override that decision.

Just because the state doesn’t regulate the practice, however, does not mean that online gaming isn’t available to those who seek it out. Indiana is one of many states in the US that has lots of options, though none are licensed by the government. Instead, we have an array of offshore operators to choose from with the majority licensed by reputable jurisdictions in the Caribbean.

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Casinos, Horse Racing Popular in Hoosier State

Indiana’s gambling history began in 1988. That’s when state voters overwhelmingly approved a state lottery. The very next year, both the state legislature and the governor were on board with the idea, and in October 1989, scratch-off tickets began being sold in the state. Today, a range of drawings and instant games are offered to players, and the state also participates in Mega Millions and Powerball.

But as in so many other states, a lottery didn’t put an end to the appetite for gambling expansion. During the mid-1990s, horse racing also came to Indiana, with Hoosier Park being the first track to open in 1994. Off-track betting wasn’t far behind, and a second track (Indiana Downs) opened in 2002.

The most significant addition to the state’s array of opportunities came in 1993, when the Indiana Riverboat Gaming Act was passed. The idea was to allow for up to 10 riverboats to offer table games and slots. These now operate today in areas including Michigan City, Gary, Evansville and Hammond. Some of the better-known locations are:

  • The Horseshoe
  • Tropicana Evansville
  • Majestic Star (and Majestic Star II)
  • Ameristar

In 2006, the first land-based resort was opened. Known as French Lick Resort Casino, the facility was originally yet another riverboat venture, taking the state’s final license after one originally intended for an operation in Patoka Lake was transferred.

Because it was supposed to be water-based, the venue was originally surrounded by a small pond, but that facade was taken away after just a couple years: the boat that originally housed the casino was converted into a land-based resort in 2008, when the pond was filled in. Today, French Lick features not only a fairly sizable floor that hosts more than 1,300 slot machines, table games, and poker, but also includes restaurants, hotels, and several golf courses.

Around the same time, the legislature also took the time to give the racing industry tools to keep up with the riverboats and resorts beginning to proliferate throughout Indiana. In 2007, they agreed to allow both tracks to host up to 2,000 slot machines, turning them into racinos.

Perhaps surprisingly, there is no Native American gaming in the state. At one time, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians had sought the right to offer gambling on its lands, especially after the tribe gained federal recognition in 1994. Ultimately, following several legal battles, the tribe opened a facility – but it was located in New Buffalo, Michigan, rather than in South Bend or Elkhart, where rumors of potential developments had been heard for years.

Limited Expansion Possible

It’s unlikely that anything dramatic will change in Indiana’s gaming industry in the next few years. However, there are a few minor changes that could see the situation continue to evolve in the state.

While Governor Pence is not in favor of anything that resembles expansion for casinos, he has said that he’s willing to allow more minor changes that help venues compete with those in surrounding states. One such measure was passed in 2015, allowing the riverboats to move their operations onto land.

That bill wasn’t all about commercial operators, however. It also explicitly authorized the governor’s office to negotiate a compact with Native American tribes in the state. That may be a real issue in the near future, as the Potawatomi Indians have once again been talking about the possibility of putting a resort in South Bend, even if details of such a proposal have remained unclear so far.

However, even the idea has already caused controversy. According to tribal officials, some parts of the bill actually make it harder for the state to negotiate a compact by setting preconditions for any Native American resorts, which they say might violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

At least one state senator also made remarks that the tribe felt were derogatory, potentially poisoning the well for future negotiations. The lawmaker, however, defended his statements: he said that telling the existing industry that “The Indians are coming” was simply an acknowledgment that Native American operations have some built-in advantages over their commercial counterparts, such as potentially paying much lower tax rates. That particular battle could drag on for some time: the tribe is hoping to get a decision on whether the US Department of the Interior will approve the South Bend project sometime during 2016.

The prospects for Internet expansion are far less rosy. Governor Pence has said he is against gambling expansion, but in particular, he has resisted any attempt to allow the state to move into Internet gaming, and that is unlikely to change in the near future. That means that Indiana is far down the list of states that could potentially regulate Internet casino sites.

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