Indiana Bars, Restaurants Ask Legislature For Video Gambling Machines

A group lobbying on behalf of bars and restaurants in Indiana is asking the state for gambling machines.

According to a report from WEHT, the Indiana Licensed Beverage Association announced that 900 owners and operators have signed a petition asking the state legislature to allow video gaming terminals (VGTs) in their establishments. It’s not a new request.

The Indiana legislative session kicks off this month. Lawmakers are expected to consider allowing online casinos this session. Additionally, there’s a bill on the table for VGTs for veterans’ service organizations.

The ILBA petition could make Indiana more like its neighbor to the west, Illinois.

That state has more than 7,200 locations with VGTs, with more than 37,000 combined machines. The Illinois VGTs, controversial to some people, generated more than $1.1 billion in revenue in 2020 through November, resulting in $325 million in taxes for the state. Like Indiana, Illinois has also legalized online/mobile and retail sportsbooks.

What’s in the proposal?

No legislation for the 2021 session has been introduced yet for the ILBA. However, the group outlined its proposal on its website. Here’s what it wants:

  • Up to five video gaming terminals in taverns, veterans’ organizations, truck stops, and other establishments licensed to serve alcohol.
  • Video gaming terminals have restrictions placed on wagering. The maximum bid would be $2 with a maximum win of $599, the same amount that can be won with pull tabs.
  • Establish a three-tiered system of manufacturers, operators, and retailers governed by the Indiana Gaming Commission. Operators will collect the revenue, pay taxes, and pay the retail establishment. Games will be overseen by a safe, strictly regulated, and centralized system.
  • Impose a video gaming wagering tax of 30% of the net terminal income. Other income would be split between the operator and the retailer.

The group cited a fiscal analysis for a 2015 proposed law that found nearly $170 million in new tax revenue could be had for Indiana in the first year of operations of the VGTs. The group estimates that there are 7,000 establishments, a comparable number to Illinois, where the VGTs could be installed.

The ILBA has been down this road before.

The group was successful in lobbying policymakers to make pull tabs and tip boards legal in 2008. According to the group, more than 1,800 bars offer the games, which are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, instead of the IGC, which regulates casinos and sports betting apps.

The petition comes at a tough time for bars and restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to reports, the ILBA is citing the pandemic as a need for the machines, which it says could prevent some establishments from closing permanently.

This year should feature some extensive debate about gambling in the Hoosier State. Also on the table is a bill to legalize “private low stakes card games.” When the state legalized sports betting in 2019, the gambling expansion proposals were under one large legislative package.