Indiana Sports Betting Bill Is Approved by House

  • Indiana relies on its casino industry for significant tax revenues
  • Legal sports betting has long been on the horizon
  • A bill has been approved by the House and now goes to a conference committee
  • The final step for the bill would be for the governor to sign it into law
Dome of Indiana Statehouse
A bill to legalize sports betting in Indiana has been approved by the House and now goes to a conference committee.

Gambling landscape in Indiana

Indiana relies significantly on tax revenues from its casinos. There are 14 gambling facilities in the state that began as riverboat casinos in 1993. In 2015, they were allowed to move these facilities onto land.

The state lottery, which began in 1988, is popular. There are still two racetracks operating, Indiana Downs and Hoosier Park. The racing industry across the United States has been losing popularity in recent decades.

This has led to the closing of many tracks. Therefore, several states, including Indiana, have allowed these facilities to offer gaming machines. This has been the case since 2007 in Indiana. Video lottery terminals and slot machines are now a good draw for the two racetracks. It allows them to continue hosting races without falling into the red.

Since the federal ban on sports betting ended in May 2018, there has been a movement to make sports betting legal in the state.

Key issues

While everyone knows the benefits of legal sports betting, lawmakers commissioned a study to find out what other effects legalizing the activity would have on the population.

The study was done by gambling consulting firm Eilers and Krejcik. Their conclusion was that it would be a good idea to legalize sports betting. They urged that this should be done sooner rather than later so as to take advantage before many other states do the same.

Moving quickly would also prevent the black market for sports betting a chance to become too deeply entrenched. The consultants also urged that there should be fair taxes and legal mobile betting.

The conclusion of the report says: “On balance, we believe the risks associated with delaying sports betting beyond the 2019 (legislative) session clearly outweigh the rewards.”

In initial talks, some parties supported an integrity fee, a slice of every sports bet that would go to the major sports league conducting the event. However, sports betting already has tight margins, so this idea was quickly abandoned.

Another key issue is who can be a sportsbook operator. Some want only the gambling facilities that are currently open to be able to get a license. Others want it to be a free market for operators.

There is also extensive debate over the minimum age in which you can place a sports bet. Currently, in Indiana, you have to be at least 18 years old to bet on horse racing. To gamble at one of the state’s facilities, you need to be 21 years old.

Bill getting traction

The Indiana House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 552 by a vote of 78-15. A provision of this gambling bill is the legalization of sports betting. It is a significant point on the path towards full legalization, the final step of which will be for Republican Governor Eric Holcomb to sign a bill into law.

The main purpose of this bill is to allow the move of a casino from Gary County to Terre Haute. However, legalizing sports betting under the control of the Indiana Gaming Commission is also a major provision. A tax of 9.5% would be levied on sports bets, with the revenue to go into the state’s general fund.

The first version of the bill was approved by the Senate during February. It contained provisions for mobile sports betting but the House eliminated that aspect.

The Senate sponsors are calling for mobile sports betting to be revived. This will likely be the major talking point when the bill goes to the conference committee. Since the legislative session closes at the end of April, this hearing will take place next week.

Next step

The conference committee is designed to allow the Senate and House to reach agreement on the final version of the bill. Two people, a Republican and a Democrat, from each chamber are on the conference committee.

While the committee meeting could spell the end for legal sports betting this week, most believe that the conferees will reach a compromise. If this happens, the Senate and House will have to give their approval to the revised version of the bill.

Then the last step would be for Governor Holcomb to sign it into law. He can also veto the bill or allow it to become law without signing it. If he does not veto or sign the bill within seven days, it will automatically become law.