Indiana Sports Betting Bill Opens Way for Future Growth
Come September, Indianapolis Colts fans in Indiana may not have to leave their home to place a bet on their local NFL team.
Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the state’s sports betting legalization bill Wednesday. The bill will permit online and in-person sports wagering, as part of a massive update to Indiana gaming laws and tax rates.
Indiana joins Montana as states to pass legal sports betting bills this year. Tennessee is set to join them soon, as is Iowa. They’ll join four other jurisdictions set to take bets in 2019: Arkansas, New York, Oregon and the District of Columbia. Eight additional states take bets now.
Hoosier State officials hope to have sports betting operational by the kickoff of the 2019 NFL season in Sept. Once approved by state regulators, Indiana residents and visitors can place a bet at one of the state’s land-based gaming facilities or through a licensed mobile site.
By passing the legislation, Indiana will likely become the first state in the Midwest to take a legal wager, and may push neighbors now considering legislation like Michigan, Ohio and Illinois to do so as well. With its online provisions, Indiana also paves the way for other states to approve mobile wagering as well, a move that has been harder to achieve than just in-person betting.
Indiana Becomes Online Leader
Indiana already had one of the best per capita gaming markets with its array of riverboat, commercial casinos and race tracks. It’s online offerings will be even bigger.
Each facility will be permitted up to three online offerings, known as skins, meaning there could be 30 or more total options for Indiana bettors. They will most likely subcontract these skins out to some of the leading online sports betting purveyors, including DraftKings and FanDuel, which have helped drive New Jersey’s market.
Indiana could also get a leg up on other states considering mobile wagering, and will be able to compete with other states set to take online bets this year, a list that now includes West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and D.C. New Jersey and Nevada are the only two states taking bets online now.
Robust online offerings have proven critical to a viable betting market. In New Jersey, which like Indiana has a multitude of in-person gaming options, around 80 percent of total bets are still placed online. Indiana will likely see an in-person/online split along those same lines.
During debate, it seemed the online provision, and the bill itself, may not even reach the governor’s desk.
Legislators Reach Pivotal Agreement
Last month both the state Senate and House passed a sports betting legalization bill, but they had one huge difference.
The Senate version included online provisions, but the House members removed mobile wagering in committee, then the full chamber approved the version without online betting. The two chambers had to reconcile the two bills and pass the exact same legislation in order to come into law, meaning the internet elements could be removed – or even worse, lawmakers couldn’t reach an agreement at all and no bill was passed at all.
Fortunately those fears didn’t come to fruition. House member on the reconciliation committee agreed to reinsert the online aspects of the bill, and the full House then approved that version by a similar margin to the mobile-less proposal.
Holcomb provided another wildcard, as he didn’t automatically endorse the bill, waiting until just before a state-mandated deadline to approve the measure. Media reports indicate Holcomb wanted to digest the entirety of the bill, which along with sports betting enacted sweeping restructuring of the state’s entire gaming industry.
He had to deal with earlier criticism for taking private flights with officials from Spectacle Entertainment, a gaming company set to benefit from the bill. The governor denied any impropriety with the flights, and ultimately those concerns were not an obstacle in the legislation passing into law.
Like in other states, passing a major gaming bill was never easy, but Indiana still provided one of the most well-rounded approaches to the expanding industry and could help spur future action in the not-too-distant future.
About the Author
Ryan Butler has spent more than 10 years covering sports, governments and the intersection between the two. Starting out as a high school sports reporter, Ryan has led multiple online and print publications as a writer and editor. Along with amateur and professional sports, Ryan has covered local, state and national governments, including a stint reporting on Virginia’s congressional delegation. He now specializes in the changing legal gambling landscape in the U.S. in statehouses across the country as well as other gaming industry news. His work has been published in the Tampa Bay Times and Gainesville Sun. Ryan graduated from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Journalism and a minor in sports management.