Large Gambling Expansion Package Moves Forward in Indiana

Indiana state capitol building

30-second summary

  • SB 552 was approved by Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee by a 12-0 vote
  • The bill would legalize sports betting, including mobile wagering, and allow riverboat casinos to relocate
  • Tax structure of the bill will be determined in the House

Sports betting legislation in Indiana has advanced as the Senate Appropriations Committee approved SB 552, 12 to 0. The bill is a package deal that includes the legalization of sports betting, with mobile betting. It would also allow riverboat casinos to be relocated to land.

SB 552 details

As the bill stands now, sports betting would be legalized in the state, and two Majestic Star gaming venues would relocate to one site in Gary, Indiana. With the relocation, a second casino license would be permitted for Vigo County. The city most likely to host the new gaming venue would be Terre Haute.

During the recent committee hearing, several changes were made to the legislation. The sports betting provisions remained the same with no changes. The bill would allow for sports betting legalization, with betting on-site as well as online. Players would have to pre-register in person to take part in mobile gaming.

Controversy

The legislation has become subject to controversy as changes were made that eliminated subsidies for other casinos due to the Gary move. Other gaming venues in the state could lose business once the casinos move to land. Subsidies that would cushion the blow are no longer included in the legislation.

Also removed was a competitive process to see which gaming operator would be in charge of the Terre Haute casino. The amendments to the legislation mainly revolve around the Terre Haute casino location.

Penn National Gaming sent a representative to the committee hearing this week, stating their opposition to the legislation. The rep said that the company has concerns about the bill. Penn National operates the Ameristar Casino Hotel in East Chicago, Indiana. The venue could see a decline in visitors as the Majestic Star Casino brand is their rival.

Spectacle Entertainment is in the process of buying the Majestic Star Casino I and the Majestic Star Casino. They want to move one casino to the Interstate 80/94 area and one to Terre Haute. The original version of the bill would have required Spectacle to bid against other casinos for the Terre Haute license. However, that competitive process is no longer a requirement.

Moving Forward

Senator Mark Messmer is the lead author of Senate Bill 552. The Senator said that other lawmakers called for the changes that took place to see the bill move forward. For now, Senator Messmer will continue to work to restore provisions that were eliminated from the bill.

The Senator will be trying to restore the competitive bidding process for the Gary license that will move to Terre Haute. Senator Messmer said: “We’ve got to give the commission the tools they need to value the license. Then they would know what other casino operators would have to include in their bid for Terre Haute.”

Some lawmakers believe that if competition were allowed for the Terre Haute location, it would create a better product.

The legislation now moves forward to the Senate floor where a second reading will be conducted. Further amendments may be made before final action is taken.