What’s in the bill (H 1015)
Here are the highlights of the Indiana sports betting bill:
- Who can play: Anyone 21 years and up who is physically inside the state
- Betting locations: Casinos, racinos, off-track betting parlors or via Internet-connected devices
- Who will regulate: Indiana Gaming Commission
- Operator tax rate: 9.5%
- Licensing fee: $100,000 (plus $50,000 yearly)
- Where the taxes go: General Fund
Apart from legalizing sports betting, the legislation also allows for state racinos to spread table games starting in 2020, and permits new casinos in Gary and Terre Haute.
Is this bill good for players?
Unlike bills we’ve seen passed in states like Pennsylvania, and absurd proposals we’ve seen cropping up (like banning betting on Sundays), the Indiana bill sets a relatively good standard for both players and the industry.
First of all, gamblers will have the option of taking their action to a casino or OTB, or alternatively, simply playing from the comfort of home – or anywhere else inside the state, for that matter – on their mobile devices.
Some states have committed the folly of allowing sports wagering only at land-based facilities, which will do little to stop the proliferation of black-market sites, and will have a severe effect on tax revenue for the state. Case in point: In New Jersey, mobile betting accounts for 80% of all legal sports wagers.
Another win for Indiana gamblers is the fact that they can register their betting accounts directly on their Internet-ready devices. Other states, like Iowa, have passed laws which force players to physically travel to a brick-and-mortar casino in order to sign up an account.
Indeed, some casinos are under the mindset that forcing people to drive to their properties will have a positive effect on their bottom line down the road. In practice, though, all this does is deter gamblers from setting up accounts at all.
Indiana has also done a good job in terms of tax rate, charging a sensible 9.5%. This is in contrast to the Keystone State, which levies a whopping 36% tax on its operators, and Tennessee, which charges a 20% rate along with an annual $750,000 licensing renewal fee.
For players, this means that there is little chance IN sportsbooks will spread unfavorable odds in an attempt to make up the difference.
Lastly, the Hoosier state has authorized each casino licensee to serve as the umbrella for three online “skins” each. This will give players plenty of choice as to where they spend their hard-earned cash, and create a highly competitive marketplace. We envision a whole host of sportsbooks vying for customers’ attention by offering lucrative promos and sign-up bonuses.
How did sports betting in Indiana come together?
Indiana has proven itself one of the more progressive states when it comes to allowing real money “betting” on sports-related events.
In early 2016, when daily fantasy sports companies were operating in something of a gray zone in the country, Indiana passed legislation legalizing the industry in the state. It was only the second to do so, and saw other states follow its lead.
The bill was championed by Rep. Alan Morrison, and signed into law by then-Governor Mike Pence that February.
Fast forward two years, and Hoosier State lawmakers had set their sights on legalizing sports betting as well, even before the Supreme Court had made its decision to strike down the law mostly limiting the activity to Nevada.
Morrison was again at the forefront of the movement, filing a bill in January 2018 which would allow online betting and charge a tax rate of 9.25%.
A month later, legislators added language which would, for the first time, mention the notorious “integrity fee” that both the MLB and NBA have been lobbying so hard for. The original IN integrity fee would have awarded 1% of total handle to the leagues – which amounts to a massive cut of operator profits – so that the organizations could, ostensibly, better police their games.
Once the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May of that year, the push to legalize sports betting in the Hoosier State went into overdrive.
A new bill was soon introduced by Senators Mark Mesmer and John Ford, and the integrity fee was later nixed. Other ill-conceived proposals were also introduced and subsequently removed as well. For instance, during the legislative process, Sen. Ben Smaltz tried to ban betting via mobile devices, something which would have crippled the industry.
He was successful in getting the option stripped from the bill for a time, but the activity was reinserted into the legislation later on during a conference committee.
On April 24, a repackaged bill, H 1015, passed the Senate by a vote of 37-12 and the House by a 59-36 margin. Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill into law a few weeks later, making Indiana the tenth state to legalize sports betting.